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A Cotati man has been sentenced to nearly 15 years in prison for a series of roadside sexual assaults on women drivers in 2008 and 2009 that struck fear in the motoring public.

Thomas Darin Boccaleoni, 47, pleaded no contest to driving up behind three women on darkened Santa Rosa and Sebastopol roads, flashing his high-beam lights and molesting them when they pulled over.

Prosecutors initially charged Boccaleoni with 10 felonies, exposing him to 28 years behind bars, but agreed to drop seven counts in a pre-trial settlement.

The former Marin County chef was sentenced Dec. 20 to 14 years, six months in prison.

None of the women who had been accosted spoke at the hearing, but one said in a Sonoma County Probation Department report that she would be "happiest if he never comes out."

"When I looked in this guy's eyes, he was not home," said the woman, who was assaulted on Sexton Road near Sebastopol after leaving a tavern in 2009. "There was something driving him that scared the frigging daylights out of me. I thought he wanted to kill me."

It was not the first time Boccaleoni has been convicted for attacks on women, according to the probation report. In 2006, he was sentenced to a year in jail for assaulting four women on San Francisco streets, using the pretense of asking for directions to get near them. In one instance, he tried to pull a woman into his SUV as she was entering her parent's home. Another time he slipped into a woman's apartment behind her and groped her as she climbed a staircase.

At that time probation officials said Boccaleoni was in the "high-risk category" for being charged or convicted of another sexual offense after his release. District Attorney Jill Ravitch said he could be committed for a longer period under the state's sexually violent predator law.

"He will be required to serve 85 percent of his sentence before he is eligible for parole," Ravitch said Wednesday.

The Sonoma County case unfolded after police began investigating multiple reports of roadside attacks on women from November 2008 to April 2009.

In each instance, women reported being tailgated by a vehicle that flashed its high-beam lights, pulled alongside in the oncoming lane and attempted to make them pull over.

The events mostly took place at night in remote locations, including Calistoga and Bennett Valley roads near Santa Rosa. The women described a male assailant with a turtleneck sweater pulled over his nose or wearing a ski mask.

In an attack on Bennett Valley Road in 2008, Boccaleoni walked up to the driver's window, told her a motorcycle had crashed and asked her to call 911.

When she dialed her mother instead, Boccaleoni told her to hang up or he would slit her throat. He then reached into the car and groped her breasts and genitals. DNA taken from the zipper of her pants matched Boccaleoni's DNA, according to the probation report.

A second attack happened on Calistoga Road in February 2009. Boccaleoni used the motorcycle ruse and pulled a turtleneck sweater over his nose, but the woman sped away.

Boccaleoni was arrested after the Sebastopol assault in which he also was accused of threatening to kill his victim.

Police learned of his past convictions and found vehicles at his home matching the victims' descriptions.

Further evidence was supplied by a brother, Tim Boccaleoni, who told detectives his brother divulged the roadside attacks to him. He said his brother bragged about "how scared the women would get," according to the probation report.

He also told his brother that if the victims "were stupid enough to pull over, they got what they deserved," according to the probation report.

In a 25-page handwritten letter to Judge Virginia Marcoida, Tom Boccaleoni attempts to discredit his brother and denies two of the sex assaults. He blames his own methamphetamine addiction and asks for mercy, saying "this behavior shall never surface again in this lifetime."

(You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 568-5312 or paul.payne@ pressdemocrat.com.)