Torquato Sentenced After Pleading No Contest [UPDATED]
Van Nuys — Valley College Associate Professor Richard Torquato was sentenced to 36 months summary probation and 45 days of community service after pleading no contest to battery charges at the Los Angeles Superior Court Friday.
Torquato was initially charged with violations of Penal Code 243.4(E)(1), which involves sexual battery, Penal Code 647.6(A)(1), which is defined as molestation of any child under 18 years of age, and 273A (B), a charge of willfully causing a child to suffer any physical pain or mental suffering. These charges were made involving Seda Arepetyan, a student during the Fall 2009 semester after an incident that occured on campus .
A no contest plea is entered when the defendant neither admits nor denies the charge, therefore dissuading a definitive guilty or not guilty plea. While not technically a guilty plea, no contest has the same immediate effect as a guilty plea, and is often offered as a part of a plea bargain. By pleading no contest, the defendant's plea cannot be construed as an admission of guilt thereby prohibiting any allocution to be entered as evidence.
"Sometimes in cases of a plea deal we allow defendants to plea to another charge as long as the sentence fits the guidelines we've laid out," stated city attorney's office spokesperson, Frank Mateljean.
Torquato could not be reached for comment regarding the sentencing. The Valley Star also asked Torquato's private counsel, John Friedman, for comment; he declined.
Torquato was found guilty of violating Penal Code 242 which states, "A battery is any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another." The City Attorney agreed to dismiss those charges in lieu of Torquato pleading no contest to battery.
Mateljean went on to state, "We feel satisfied with the results."
Torquato's 36 months of summary probation is the lightest form of probation available. Torquato will not have to report to a probation officer.
In addition to the probation, Torquato will have to serve 45 days of community service, pay a restitution fine to court, cannot use or threaten to use force or violence on any person, do not annoy, harass, molest any person or witness involved in this case, and has been ordered to not associate and stay away from Seda Arepetyan.
Valley's Office of Compliance is also investigating the psychology professor.
"Now that there is an outcome on the legal aspect, we can now finish our investigation here [at Valley]," said Valley President Sue Carleo.
Because the legal investigation had been ongoing, and Torquato had been advised to not speak to anyone regarding the case, the campus investigation has been on hold.
This was to be expected because as Carleo states, "There are rules to follow and that is the standard."
"Now that we can talk to all the parties involved, the Office of Compliance will conduct the investigation and will make a recommendation to me," said Carleo. "Whatever they decide will be consulted between myself and the chancellor to determine the final outcome."
There is no immediate timetable set for Torquato's return. If the campus investigation concludes and Torquato is allowed to return to work, it would not be within the confines of a classroom for at least the remainder of the spring semester, according to Carleo.
"The challenge for the college is to do what's best for the students and for the employee. We must address both issues," added Carleo.
When asked again if Torquato was on paid leave of absence or not, Carleo reiterated that Torquato was, "… just on leave, let's leave it at that."
Torquato earned his bachelor's degree from Williamette Universty in Salem, Oregon and received a master's degree from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He was hired at Valley in 1999.
Torquato is next scheduled in court May 26 for a restitution hearing.
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