In an emotional day in court, a former Silverado High School softball coach was sentenced to more than 23 years in federal prison Monday for sexually exploiting a teenage member of his team.
Albert Silva Hernandez Jr., 44, also was ordered to spend a lifetime under federal supervision after he gets out of prison.
The 284-month prison term handed out by U.S. District Judge James Mahan was 22 months more than what prosecutors had sought.
Hernandez, his voice breaking, apologized for his actions and vowed to turn his life around in prison, as family members cried in the crowded courtroom. He has three children of his own, ranging in age from 15 to 20 years.
“To my family and friends who are here, I’m sorry,” a shackled Hernandez said, as he turned from the sentencing podium and looked toward the gallery. Some of the spectators were former team members who came to support him. Hernandez also apologized to his young victim, who was a 17-year-old student at the time, and said he was “praying” for her well-being.
He referred to a letter he wrote Mahan saying, “By nature, I’m not a bad person, but I did make a bad mistake.”
Mahan, however, was not impressed with his 11th-hour show of remorse, telling Hernandez he should have displayed it earlier this year before he stood trial to spare the teenager the embarrassment of having to publicly testify against him.
“You decided to roll the dice, and it came up snake eyes,” Mahan said.
Mahan also ordered Hernandez to undergo mental health and substance abuse counseling in prison and register as a sex offender after he does his time behind bars.
On the other side of the courtroom, tears flowed from the victim’s mother as Assistant U.S. Attorney Roger Yang read a portion of a written statement the girl gave to the judge.
“Being controlled and manipulated is a scary and lonely experience,” the teenager wrote, adding she hoped no other girl would have to go through what she did.
Following a three-day trial in April, a jury convicted Hernandez of eight counts of child sex exploitation.
Hernandez, who is in custody, was found guilty of causing the production of child pornography and exchanging sexually explicit text messages and photographs with the student in late 2011 and early 2012.
According to prosecutors, Hernandez had oral sex with the girl, photographed the act with his cellphone and sent images to the girl. He also had the girl photograph herself naked and send those images to him.
“It is undisputed that the defendant abused his position of trust to commit this offense,” Yang wrote in a sentencing memorandum late last week.
“The nature and circumstances of the offense are that the defendant used his position as the victim’s softball coach, during what the victim testified was an emotionally trying period of her life, to enter into a sexual relationship with her that lead to the production and transmission of the sexually exploitative images.”
Hernandez tried to hide the relationship, which was uncovered by the girl’s father, even after his original May 2012 arrest by Clark County School District police, prosecutors alleged.
He was fired as coach prior to his arrest.
The girl’s mother told police that Hernandez had been a family friend for years and that she viewed his role with her daughter as a “father figure” and “mentor.”
Contact Jeff German at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-8135. Follow @JGermanRJ on Twitter.