PORT ANGELES — A Forks man was sentenced Tuesday to nine years to life in prison for first-degree child rape and first-degree child molestation following a jury trial in October.
A Clallam County Superior Court jury found Miguel Angel Medel Lopez, 39, guilty Oct. 8 following a four-day trial that included testimony from the survivor, now 16, who was 8 when she was raped.
If he is released, he will be under community-custody supervision of the state Department of Corrections, according to the sentence handed down by Judge Simon Barnhart.
Medel Lopez, who testified at the trial and denied sexually assaulting the girl, maintained his innocence at his sentencing Tuesday, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Steve Johnson said in an interview.
Johnson had sought a sentence of 10 years, three months.
“We asked for the high end of the standard range, but 108 months is still reasonable,” he said.
“It’s a significant amount of time, and we’re glad he is going to be subject to the [Indeterminate] Sentence Review Board, and whenever he is released, he is going to have to abide by community custody, and sex offender registration for the rest of his life.
“We think that’s necessary for someone who commits these kind of crimes.”
Attorney John Hayden of Clallam Public Defender, who represented Medel Lopez, did not return a call for comment late Tuesday afternoon.
The charges against Hayden’s client grew out of an incident that occurred in 2012 and initially involved an accusation against Medel Lopez that he sexually assaulted a second girl, then age 6.
Medel Lopez, a friend of the girl’s mother who was living at the family’s house, took the girls to his cabin at Lake Pleasant, according to court documents.
Medel Lopez and the older girl were in the bedroom when the assault occurred, according to the court documents.
“While Spongebob Squarepants played on the television, Mr. Medel Lopez put his hand under the victim’s dress while they lay on the bed together and he sexually assaulted her,” according to a press release Tuesday from the Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.
The evidence included a synopsis of a recorded conversation between the girl and Medel Lopez on Nov. 6, 2019, six years later.
During the phone call, the girl accused Medel Lopez of “touching me where you weren’t supposed to,” according to court documents.
“I live with these thoughts every day and don’t understand why you did that,” she told him.
“I wasn’t in my right mind, I guess,” he responded.
Medel Lopez asked her if what happened bothers her.
“I’m sorry,” he continued.
“Yeah, I’m really, really sorry. Is there anything I can do to help you get over it or, I don’t know, you let me know.”
She tells him she “didn’t know what was going on” and “didn’t know that was wrong for you to do.”
He blamed the girl’s behavior, according to the court records.
“It was the way you guys were playing before. With me. It made me do it. I don’t know.”
Medel Lopez said he did not want “to live with that over my head,” according to the court records.
“I can’t fix the past, but I can probably do better in the future.”
Medel Lopez testified about the conversation at the trial, Johnson said.
“He did not deny saying those words, but he said they were being misconstrued,” Johnson recalled.
Medel Lopez was arrested Nov. 20, 2019, following a nearly year-long investigation that involved Child Protective Services, the National Park Service and the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office.
The investigation began after the girl talked to a mental health care worker.
“The survivor in this case showed tremendous courage and persistence,” Johnson said in the press release.
“I am glad that she continued to advocate for herself so she could see justice delivered.
“She serves as an example that it is never too late to speak up if someone has caused you serious harm.”
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].