URBANA — A Rantoul man wept Friday in a Champaign County courtroom as he apologized in Spanish to his former girlfriend for having molested her daughter for years.
The contrition that Miguel Solorzano, 31, displayed for Judge Tom Difanis was enough to get him a sentence that was much lower than the 40 years that Assistant State's Attorney Troy Lozar had sought for the child predator.
Difanis sentenced Solorzano to 25 years in prison for predatory criminal sexual assault of a child involving sexual conduct with the girl in December 2007 when she was 11.
Under Illinois' truth-in-sentencing law, he'll have to serve just over 21 years.
Solorzano pleaded guilty in May to a single count although Lozar argued to the judge that the improper conduct went on for several years.
In October 2011, the girl told her mother what had been happening. After she was interviewed at the Children's Advocacy Center and named Solorzano as one of several men who molested her, he cooperated with Rantoul police in their investigation. The others who allegedly abused her were extended family members of Solorzano who have since left the area, Lozar said. No others have been charged.
"I know I deserve punishment. All I wish for them is good things," Solorzano told the judge during an emotionally charged hourlong hearing. "I hope that one day this nightmare will be over for (the victim and her mother.)"
When Solorzano pleaded guilty, Lozar agreed to cap his recommendation at 40 years. He could have received 60 years.
"This was not an isolated incident," Lozar reminded the judge, saying that because of her young age the girl had no choice but to suffer the unwanted advances of Solorzano for at least three years. "He appears to be a good person, yet part of him is going to take advantage of the little girl he should be protecting."
Testifying in his own behalf, Solorzano said he wanted help for his problem and was sorry for what he had done to the victim and her family.
Under questioning by his attorney, Baku Patel of Urbana, Solorzano explained how he cooperated with police once the investigation began, how he has had no disciplinary problems in the jail, and how he was gainfully employed before his arrest.
After being charged in October, he posted bond and fled to Texas in an attempt to get back to Mexico, where he has family. Solorzano said during the week he was in the county jail in Urbana, he witnessed two fights and was panicked at the thought of losing his freedom. When he was arrested in Texas, he waived extradition to return to Illinois.
Patel argued that there were several factors in Solorzano's favor that warranted a lesser sentence. Those included one prior conviction for driving under the influence 12 years ago, that he was gainfully employed, and that he returned to Illinois without a fight, cooperated with police, pleaded guilty and spared the victim the ordeal of a trial.
He also willingly went through a sex offender assessment that included more than 600 questions, Patel said.
Difanis agreed that Solorzano was remorseful and called the case tragic for both the victim and her family and Solorzano's family, several of whom were in the courtroom weeping quietly.
Difanis said Solorzano's attempt to flee the country was an aggravating factor and that a message of deterrence had to be sent "loudly and clearly for other individuals."