A Cheyenne man in prison for impregnating his business partner’s teenage daughter lost a court appeal Tuesday.
Daniel Ivan Villafana, 32, appealed the Wyoming Supreme Court to overturn his 10-14 year prison sentence for sexual abuse of a minor.
Villafana claimed that when the Laramie County District Court sentenced him, the judge wouldn’t hear testimony that the girl had slept with a grown man before, the parents condoned the pair’s sexual relationship and the parents extorted money from Villafana after learning of the relationship.
The court record confirms that the judge shut down the testimony as victim-shaming.
Villafana also said it was the girl who initiated sex with him, after her parents dropped her off at his house repeatedly so they could “party.”
He argued in his appeal that the parents’ actions “encouraged, normalized, and sometimes even forced an inappropriate relationship” between himself and the teen.
The state’s high court said these testimonies don’t change the fact that Villafana was convicted of two counts of sexual abuse of a minor after sleeping with a 14-year-old girl in 2017 and impregnating her a about year later.
Not Less Guilty
To have his sentence overturned, Villafana needed to prove that the judge abused her discretion by discounting mitigating factors in the crime. The Wyoming Supreme Court said that those testimonies, however, were not “mitigating” factors, but rather that Villafana’s willingness to evoke them could be seen as an aggravating factor or a fact increasing his guilt.
“The fact that (the girl’s) parents condoned and encouraged Mr. Villafana to sexually abuse their daughter and then used that abuse to extort money from him is not a mitigating circumstance,” reads the court’s opinion on the appeal. “He is essentially arguing that because (the girl’s) parents condoned the sexual abuse and used it for financial gain, he is somehow less culpable for the abuse.”
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Villafana also argued that his imprisonment is cruel and unusual punishment. He said because a psychosexual analyst opined during his prosecution that imprisoning him would make him more likely to reoffend in the future – not less – the court put an undue burden on him by putting him in prison. He argued that his sentence is “akin to torture.”
The prosecutor at sentencing had asked for a 15- to 20-year sentence. Villafana’s defense attorney argued for 10 years of supervised probation. The judge settled on 10-14 years in prison.
It is difficult to overturn a sentence on claims of cruel and unusual punishment, the opinion states.
Villafana would have had to prove that his sentence was grossly disproportionate to his crime and the court made a mistake during sentencing.
The Supreme Court said Villafana did not prove either claim.
“We cannot say, under these circumstances, that sentencing Mr. Villafana to prison for a total of 10-14 years for sexually abusing a child on multiple occasions is either cruel or unusual,” reads the opinion.
Under Wyoming law, sexual abuse of a minor is punishable by up to 20 years in prison per offense.