Pollacci pleads guilty, avoids life sentence
By KELLY NIX and MARY SCHLEY
Published: July 15, 2011
CONVICTED RAPIST Tom Pollacci dodged a potential life sentence Monday by pleading guilty to one count of forcible rape and agreeing to six years in state prison.
Jury selection for his trial on new allegations he raped two women and which would have included testimony from several others claiming he sexually assaulted them was supposed to begin this week, and prosecutor Mike Breeden said he would have sought a life sentence if the case went to trial.
Pollacci, who was facing a four-week trial on three new counts of rape, will receive the six-year sentence on top of the eight years he’s serving for raping a woman in his family’s liquor store in April 2008. A jury found him guilty of that offense last year.
In the latest case, Pollacci met Jane Doe 1 in his liquor store in April 2007, and they agreed to go on a date, but instead of drinks and dinner, Pollacci took her to a travel trailer his family owned at the Monterey Airport and raped her, according to Breeden. She came forward after seeing news coverage of Pollacci’s first case.
He also met Jane Doe 2 when she came to shop in the store in October 2008. She worked nearby, and he invited her to lunch but took her to the travel trailer now parked at a pullout in Pebble Beach, where he raped her, according to Breeden. Later, he began harassing her, so she went to his liquor store to confront him and was raped again. She also came forward after hearing about the victim in the previous case.
Monterey County deputy public defender Michelle Wouden said her client had to think hard about the deal, which she said Breeden offered at the “11th hour.”
“It was not an easy decision to make,” Wouden said.
Breeden told The Pine Cone plea negotiations began Thursday, with each side making offers until Monday, when agreement was reached just before the trial was to begin.
Pollacci decided to take the deal because he felt public opinion was against him, and he had failed to convince Monterey County Superior Court Judge Terrance Duncan to allow the case to be tried in another county.
A poll commissioned by the public defender’s office to support its request for a new venue indicated 98 percent of those questioned had heard of Pollacci, and 96 percent believed he was definitely or probably guilty.
“The reason he accepted the offer was on two grounds,” Wouden said. “One, because the change of venue motion was denied and he did not feel he could get a fair trial in Monterey County.”
Though Pollacci was accused in the new case by two women, Breeden also planned to call seven others to testify he sexually assaulted them. Such witnesses, whose allegations need not have resulted in convictions or even been reported to authorities, are only allowed in trials involving sex crimes.
As a result, while Wouden said she had an “extremely defensible case,” Pollacci felt the odds were overwhelmingly against him.
“He didn’t believe the jury would separate the two Jane Does the complainants from the seven other Jane Does,” she said. “He was afraid he would be convicted because of the number of people against him and ultimately face life in prison.”
But Wouden said she believes a jury would have acquitted her client.
“I didn’t concur with the plea,” she said. “I told the judge he was waiving his rights and entering the plea, but I did not agree with it.”
From Breeden’s standpoint, resolving the matter beforehand was worthwhile, because it spared Pollacci’s victims the pain of talking about their experiences in open court during a drawn-out trial.
“It’s traumatic for the victims in any criminal case,” he said. Although all nine women were cooperative and ready to testify against Pollacci, “they knew it was an experience that was not going to be very pleasant.”
In responding to all of the allegations against him in both cases, Pollacci always insisted the sex was consensual.
During his preliminary hearing, photographs were shown of Jane Doe 2 posing with her legs spread on Pollacci’s red Corvette and another of Doe 2 lying on a rock, pictures reportedly taken the same day she said Pollacci raped her.
After being convicted by a jury in April 2010, Pollacci was sentenced to eight years in prison. Though he will receive another six years in this case, with the time he’s already served and possible credit for good behavior in prison, Pollacci could be released in about a decade, when he’s in his early 60s.
He has been held in Monterey County Jail since the first guilty verdict but will now be moved to a state prison. While in the county facility, “he has received no disciplinary action reports or writeups” for bad behavior, according to Wouden.
Because he was convicted of forcible rape, when Pollacci is up for parole, two psychiatrists or psychologists from the state department of health will evaluate him to determine if he has a mental disorder that would make him likely to commit more sex crimes, according to Breeden.
If they deem Pollacci a “sexually violent predator,” the district attorney’s office would receive their report, conduct its own evaluation and file a petition, which could be heard by a civil jury. Pollacci could be indefinitely committed to a mental institution following his release from prison if he’s labeled an SVP, according to Breeden.
His sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 13 in front of Monterey County Superior Court Judge Adrienne Grover.
Meanwhile, his parents have settled a federal civil lawsuit brought by one of Pollacci’s victims, which claimed they were negligent for letting their son, who was first convicted of sex crimes in the early 1990s, work in their liquor stores. A lawsuit by Jane Doe 1 was filed in federal court against the Pollacci’s. Late last year, a judge ruled they could be held personally liable for negligence. The family also sold its Pacific Grove and Carmel liquor stores, which are now owned by Lopez family, who also owns Lopez Taqueria & Liquor on Del Monte Avenue and Lopez Restaurante y Cantina on Cass Street.