Despite pleas from the victim's family for prison, an Alameda man who carried on a phone sex relationship with a 13-year-old Santa Rosa girl and was arrested in the parking lot of her school was sentenced Thursday to five years' probation.
Judge Gary Medvigy found that Arnold Luz, 46, never physically touched the girl and that his reasons for driving north to the Cook Middle School campus were unclear.
Although he engaged in mutual masturbation with the girl on an adults-only, phone sex line, Luz maintained he was trying to help her run away from an abusive home life. The girl later admitted she reached out to him for help.
"Whether it was a rescue attempt or an attempt to take the victim away from her family we will never know," Medvigy said.
The girl, who attended the sentencing with her mother, said in a statement read by a family lawyer that Luz manipulated her into thinking her mom didn't care about her. She later realized it wasn't true, she said.
The girl said the experience left her fearful of strangers and ashamed to have let her guard down. She said she cut herself to "get rid of the pain and memories I have."
"I trusted you enough that I would run away with you and believed you when you told me you would care for me as a daughter but at the same time a wife," the girl said in her statement.
The family said afterwards they thought the sentence was too light. Luz has been free since June after serving 10 months in jail.
"I'm disappointed and concerned for society," the mother said in the hallway. "I'm glad I'm not a resident of Alameda. He needs to go to prison."
Prosecutor Christine Cook also asked for prison. She said Luz preyed on a vulnerable girl to satisfy his sexual desires and was planning to take her away "for all time."
"He would have carried her away from her family and this county for who knows how long," Cook said.
However, another prosecutor earlier this year agreed to a pre-trial settlement that tossed out a number of counts and left open the possibility of probation. The District Attorney's Office asked the judge to vacate the agreement after the family complained they were not informed of the details.
Under the agreement, Luz plead no contest to two counts of committing a lewd act with a child under 14. He must register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
According to preliminary hearing testimony, Luz and the girl met last year on the phone sex line. She initially said she was 18 but later told him her true age. Over a three-month period, she shared information about her home life and eventually asked Luz to help her get away, said Kristine Burk, Luz's attorney.
He did and was arrested at the school after a suspicious person called police.
Burk said Luz didn't manipulate her and wasn't planning to abduct her. She pointed out that Luz wasn't charged with kidnapping and that a psychologist determined he wasn't a pedophile.
She said his conduct arose from being off medication for a bipolar disorder.
"The trip to Sonoma County was not initiated by him to fulfill sexual interests," Burk said.