Sentencing is set today for a 42-year-old man who was convicted of kidnapping and sexually assaulting two 15-year-old girls about three weeks apart last year in Lancaster.
Joseph Kenneth Cornett is facing a potential life prison term with the possibility of parole, along with lifetime sex offender registration when he appears before Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Henry J. Hall.
Cornett was found guilty March 24 of two counts each of forcible rape, lewd act upon a child and kidnapping to commit rape, along with one count each of sexual penetration by a foreign object, assault with intent to commit rape, assault with intent to commit sodomy, assault by force likely to produce great bodily injury, furnishing marijuana to a minor and possession of PCP.
Jurors also convicted him of seven counts of resisting, delaying or obstructing a peace officer.
The charges stemmed from attacks on a 15-year-old girl who accepted a ride from Cornett on April 13, 2015, and a 15-year-old girl who was walking home from school last May 6, Deputy District Attorney Jon Hatami told jurors during his opening statement in Cornett’s trial.
“The evidence will show that the defendant is nothing more than a serial rapist,” Hatami told jurors.
Investigators tied Cornett to the unsolved rape case from April following his arrest in connection with the attack in May, according to the prosecution.
The attack in April involved a girl who had run away from home and ducked into a garage where she encountered Cornett and two other men, Hatami told jurors.
Cornett offered to drive the teen home, but instead took her “all the way out into the desert … pulled her into the dirt and he raped her,” the prosecutor said.
The prosecutor told jurors that Cornett then told the girl, “Let’s do this again. And this time, let’s do it right, with no screaming,”before raping her again.
Hatami acknowledged that the teen smoked marijuana provided to her by Cornett and that she had run away from home, but said “that didn’t mean she deserved to be raped.”
The 15-year-old girl who was attacked in May was walking home from school when Cornett stopped his car and told her she could be arrested for jaywalking, the deputy district attorney said.
Cornett “promised to take her home” but instead drove her to an abandoned trailer, ordered her to get out of the car and assaulted her, according to the prosecutor.
The girl “pleaded with the defendant to let her go” and then ran out of the trailer without any pants, underwear or shoes when he wasn’t looking, Hatami said.
The girl sought help from a motorist, who called 911 while others nearby rushed to the scene and some confronted Cornett. The bystanders chased Cornett, who jumped into his car, which ultimately got stuck in a sandy ditch.
When Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies arrived, “he resisted … grabbed one of the deputies … (and) had to be Tased, I believe, three times,” Hatami said.
In a brief opening statement, Cornett’s attorney, Michael Sindell, asked jurors to “keep an open mind” and wait to hear all of the evidence before drawing any conclusions. He said the prosecution’s case was “primarily based on half-truths.”
The prosecution was barred during the trial from introducing any evidence about Cornett’s alleged admission that he was HIV-positive.