A former Culinary Institute of America student was sentenced Tuesday to three years in state prison for raping a schoolmate at a party in St. Helena in January 2012.
Napa County Superior Court Judge Mark Boessenecker sentenced Steven Braslaw to state prison, rejecting the defense’s arguments for a lesser sentence because of Braslaw’s lack of criminal record and other mitigating factors. Braslaw faced up to eight years in prison.
A jury convicted Braslaw, 43, of Riverside, on Jan. 18 after a weeklong trial.
The victim, who is openly gay, was celebrating her 19th birthday with Braslaw and other classmates at a house Braslaw and other students shared in St. Helena when the rape occurred.
In the course of the party, the victim, referred to in court as Jane Doe, became intoxicated after drinking and fell ill, authorities said. She fell asleep and woke up to find Braslaw on top of her, raping her, she testified.
On Tuesday, Braslaw, who has been in the Napa County jail since Jan. 18, sobbed as he addressed the court while standing by his attorney, Brian Getz of San Francisco.
“I know (Jane Doe) wants me to suffer and I will for the rest of my life,” Braslaw said as relatives, including his wife, sat in the courtroom. “I’m truly, truly sorry for what I did,” Braslaw said. “I can only say I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
The victim, who now lives in Las Vegas with her wife, a police officer, did not attend Tuesday’s hearing. In Jane Doe’s absence, Deputy District Attorney Allison Haley read her statement and letters from her parents.
In her statement, the victim said she withdrew from the Culinary School of America after the assault, four months before she was expected to graduate from the two-year program.
Jane Doe said she often has nightmares and suffers from insomnia. She was unemployed for two months after she moved to Las Vegas. She resumed her studies in April at a local school but had to make up a year’s worth of classes because many of the credits from the Culinary Institute were not transferable, she stated. She also has to repay $40,000 in tuition, Jane Doe said.
“There is nothing that can make up for what (Braslaw) has done to me or any amount of time that can make up for what this has caused me and my family,” the statement read. “He was someone I trusted, and even considered a friend. I want him to repay for what he did. I want him to suffer more than I already have.”
Getz argued for no prison time, citing a number of mitigating factors, including his client’s lack of criminal record. After the hearing, Getz said his client’s family will continue to support him during his incarceration. No decision has been made on whether or not an appeal will be filed, he said.
Haley, who had asked for a six-year prison term, said she was satisfied with the sentence imposed Tuesday.
“The defendant wanted to characterize the rape as a mistake or accident. This judge rightly recognized that rape doesn’t happen by mistake or by accident,” she said. “Rape was the choice made by this defendant and now he will be punished for it.”
Having been in custody since January, Braslaw received 156 days’ jail time credit. He will have to register as a sex offender after his release.
In the meantime, the civil suit Jane Doe filed against Braslaw continues in Napa County Superior Court. A trial is scheduled in July, according to court records.