State court denies review of Lancaster kidnap verdict
OW Staff Writer | 6/16/2017, midnight
A man convicted of kidnapping and sexually assaulting two 15-year-old girls about three weeks apart in Lancaster in 2015 lost his bid this week to have the California Supreme Court review the case.
Joseph Kenneth Cornett was sentenced in May 2016 to 100 years to life in state prison, with Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Henry J. Hall saying that a “monster” had been stopped and he wanted the two teens to know that “none of this is your fault” the judge said, noting that the attacks were among the most brutal sex crimes he had seen in 40 years in the criminal justice system and that it was “highly unlikely that Mr. Cornett will ever be released from custody.”
The judge’s comments were repeatedly interrupted by outbursts from Cornett, who said at one point, “Call me a monster. You’re a monster.’”
As statements were read from the victims and one of their mothers about the impact of the attacks, Cornett maintained, “I didn’t rape nobody ... I never kidnapped nobody ... I was high on PCP. They got in the car on their own.”
At another point, he told the judge, “Stop talking ... Come on with the double-life sentences, man ... so I don’t have to be around this no more.”
After the judge finished laying out the terms of Cornett’s sentence, the defendant interrupted again to tell him that he, the prosecutor and jurors were “going to hell.”
In a statement read in court on her behalf, one of the victims directly addressed the defendant.
“You raped me. You took away my freedom,” she said.
The other victim called Cornett a “bad person” and said she will not let the crime “drive me down.”
Deputy District Attorney Jon Hatami said the defendant attacked one of the victims after she accepted a ride from him on April 13, 2015, and targeted the other teen while she walking home from school on May 6, 2015.
Cornett was arrested after that attack, when the teen ran half-naked from an abandoned trailer, where she had been sexually assaulted and sought help from a motorist who called 911. Cornett tried to flee from responding Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies, then punched, kicked and grabbed at them after his car got stuck.
In an April 11 ruling, a three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected the defense’s contention that Cornett’s convictions on sexual offenses involving one of the teens should be overturned based on the trial court judge’s decision to exclude certain evidence about the girl, including details about some of her Facebook posts.
The defense did not challenge Cornett’s convictions on the crimes involving the other teenage girl.
Contrary to appellant’s assertion, this case was not “a paradigmatic credibility contest between appellant and two teenage girls.” The overwhelming evidence supported appellant’s convictions,” acting Presiding Justice Judith Ashmann-Gerst wrote on behalf of the panel.