For two months in 2010, people who worked at fast food restaurants across Pierce County lived in fear.
Two men were lying in wait at closing time, their car sporting red-and-blue flashing lights like a police vehicle, one of them armed with a gun.
They’d follow the night managers after they’d locked up, pull them over and rob them. In one case, when they victims had no money, one of the men raped a female employee while her fiance was locked in the trunk of his car, begging the attackers to stop.
Samuel Oscar Gonzalez was that rapist.
On Friday, he got his reckoning.
Superior Court Judge Frank Cuthbertson sentenced Gonzalez, 28, to 60 years to life in prison, saying he’d seen few crimes in his 12 years on the Superior Court bench to match the remorseless actions Gonzalez perpetrated on his victims.
“You showed no compassion whatsoever for any of the victims in this case,” Cuthbertson said.
Gonzalez will have to serve the 60-year portion of his sentence, then it will be up to the state’s Indeterminate Sentence Review Board to decide whether he should be released.
A jury in December convicted Gonzalez of 10 felonies, including multiple counts of first-degree robbery, first-degree rape and first-degree kidnapping.
Authorities said Gonzalez and co-defendant Jeffrey Lundberg, 31, committed at least four robberies in all, targeting restaurants across Pierce County.
Lundberg pleaded guilty in December to one count of first-degree robbery in a plea deal that required him to testify against Gonzalez. He did his part and received a sentence of five years in prison, court records show.
Deputy prosecutors Sabrina Ahrens and Bryce Nelson, who teamed up to try Gonzalez, on Friday recommended a sentence of 62 years, 10 months to life in prison.
“From the very beginning, they were more and more emboldened not only to continue the crime spree but to expand and create more havoc on the victims that they encountered,” Ahrens told Cuthbertson. “As the court recalls, with each and everyone of these offenses they got more egregious in nature.”
Ahrens said the crimes terrified people who were just trying to go about their daily business.
“We had folks that were just going to work at McDonald’s and Burger King and Wendy’s and just trying to make a living and take care of their families,” she said. “Instead of allowing people to be able to do that the defendant decided that not only was he going to take the property of other people he was going to threaten them and point guns at and scare and rape these victims. He deserves nothing more than every single day of the sentence.”
None of the victims spoke at Friday’s sentencing hearing, but a number sent letters to the judge.
One who was robbed by Gonzalez and Lundberg said her sense of security had been shaken, saying the incident “has blackened by white picket fence world,” the woman wrote.
Defense attorney John Chin argued for a low-end sentence of 47 years to life.
The high-end sentence recommended by prosecutors gives Gonzalez no chance for redemption, Chin said.
“He has never stated to me, throughout these proceedings, that anyone else was responsible for these acts but himself,” the defense attorney said. “He has stated over and over to me his concern for the welfare of the victims. The sexual assault were never planned. They were never the objects of these schemes and plans.”
“I’m not asking for mercy,” Chin continued. “I’m just simply asking for reality.”
Gonzalez declined a chance to speak on his own behalf.
Cuthbertson then took his turn, saying he couldn’t imagine the terror of the woman sexually assaulted by Gonzalez or the helplessness of her fiance as he listened to what was happening.
“What you did to them was beyond what anyone would do for even sexual gratification. It was like torture, for both of them,” the judge said. “You terrorized her and had him stuck in the trunk of the car begging you that he would do anything if you left his fiance alone, and you had no mercy. You raped her in front of him then raped her brutally again outside of the car because they didn’t have any money to give you. ”
The judge paused to catch his breath, then acknowledged that Gonzalez is a human being despite his inhuman actions.
“I do hope that you have changed. I do hope that you’re the new Sam,” Cuthbertson said. “And sometime, and I won’t be here, about 60 years from now, you can go before the Indeterminate Sentence Review Board and ask them to have mercy on you and release you from prison.”
Here’s an edited video of Cuthbertson’s remarks. Headphones or earbuds are recommended: