PORT ANGELES — A former Sequim church trustee who has been convicted of raping two eighth-grade girls in 2015 and 2016 and tampering with a witness following his arrest was sentenced Thursday to 11½ years in prison followed by 36 months of community custody.
“Mr. Chavez, this is a case where you participated in basically predatory behavior with vulnerable youth,” Brian Coughenhour, Clallam County Superior Court judge, told Chavez, 32, before meting out punishment.
“We’re talking about middle school children, that’s what these charges are about, middle school children that you provided alcohol to and then had sex with them, that’s what this case is about.”
Chavez also tried to affect testimony regarding those activities, Coughenour said, referring to the tampering conviction.
“You have clearly negatively impacted the lives of two young women, you have negatively impacted these families’ lives, you have negatively impacted your own family’s lives by your own actions,” he said.
A jury of six men and six women found Chavez, who is married and has children, guilty June 6 of three counts of third-degree rape with the aggravating element of violating his position of trust with the girl as a church trustee. Chavez also was convicted of one count of third-degree child molestation involving the girl.
The jury also found Chavez guilty of one count of the 2016 third-degree child rape of a child involving another girl, also 14 at the time and a friend of the other victim, and of tampering with a witness after he asked a person who knew the girls if he would talk with them about dropping the charges.
Third-degree rape of a child is sexual intercourse with person who is at least 14 but less than 16 years old. The teens are now 17.
Port Angeles lawyer Stan Myers said an appeal may be filed in the case.
The first girl was 14 when she met him at the church, according to court records.
Chavez, then 27, said he needed to get to know her better so she could babysit his children, which she never did.
His assaults on her occurred in early 2015 in a vehicle, the girl’s mother’s house, and in Chavez’s bedroom, according to court records that said the first time was following a 2015 New Year’s Eve party at the church.
“I eventually stopped keeping the secret from everyone, and from myself,” wrote the teenager who Chavez was convicted of raping multiple times. “I started getting the support and help I needed and began to accept that it wasn’t my fault.
“I had to confront my guilt in a real way and tell my story to strangers multiple times.”
The other teenager met Chavez in October 2016, when she told him she was 14 and he said he was 20, according to court documents. They had sex in his vehicle following an outdoor party to which Chavez brought alcohol, according to court records.
“For the rest of my life when someone puts a hand on my leg it will remind me of the way he took control of me before I even had the chance to say no,” she said.
“I blame myself for being an easy target, but in reality it shouldn’t matter how vulnerable I was or how drunk I was because none of that justifies rape.”
Chavez also addressed Coughenour.
“I’m sorry that this whole situation transpired,” he said. “This is very difficult for me and I understand it is difficult for everyone involved, especially for my wife.
“If there was anything I could do for [the victims] I would do it,” he said. “I know they know who I am.
“I am not a violent person,” Chavez added. “I am sorry for the things that have happened, the actions that I’ve done, I don’t know, I just ask for your mercy.”
Chavez, a heavy equipment operator, was critical of the jury that convicted him, according to the pre-sentence report.
“He believes he was convicted by a racist jury,” according to the report.
Chavez also was ordered to pay court costs and counseling costs for the two victims.
At the close of the hearing, Coughenour praised the teens for coming to court “and showing your strength and resilience.”
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected] peninsuladailynews.com.