A nursing assistant who sexually battered hospital patients had been able to put off facing the law 11 years as a fugitive. Now, after two years in jail, Ramon Eduardo Gaspar has accepted a plea bargain far less severe than what he had faced.
"It doesn't feel fair," said Courtney Rosenberg, who was the first patient to report Gaspar to Los Angeles police, and who has gone public with her efforts to bring attention to the struggle to bring him to justice.
Gaspar, 50, had been charged with 20 counts against eight women. When he appeared in the Van Nuys courthouse Friday, he pleaded no contest to five counts, carrying a prison term of seven years, expected to be imposed at a later court date. Gaspar may end up serving actual time of only half such a sentence. With credit for the past two years in jail, it’s expected he will be be released from prison in 18 months, said LA County Deputy District Attorney Kelly Kraetsch.
In court, Rosenberg was visibly distraught, tears welling up in her eyes, "wanting to scream," she said.
Gaspar jumped bail after he was originally charged in 2006, and had fled to his native Guatemala. Lead detective Ninette Toosbuy had vowed she would not retire until Gaspar was brought back, which she achieved through international channels two years ago. Now retired from LAPD and working as a corporate investigator, Toosbuy has nevertheless remained close to the case and came to court Friday.
Afterwards, she expressed relief that, after years of uncertainty, Gaspar will go to prison, but also some disappointment with for how long.
"I did expect when I got him back into custody that he would be doing more than time than he is ultimately going to be doing," Toosbuy said.
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Kraetsch and deputy public defender Brad Siegel declined to discuss the specifics of the plea negotiation. But a statement from the District Attorney's Office alluded to the passage of time, making prosecution of the case more difficult.
"Among the factors considered in negotiating the plea agreement were the availability of the victims, one of whom passed away while the defendant was on the run for more than a decade," the statement read in part.
Another of the older victims was no longer able to testify due to onset of Alzheimer's disease, Toosbuy said.
Rosenberg, and according to Toosbuy, four other victims were still ready and prepared to testify in court. Rosenberg said testifying at the preliminary hearing was difficult, but she would have done so again in her belief that trial on more counts would lead to a more substantial sentence for Gaspar.
"I also just feel a message is being sent that if you run, you will benefit," Rosenberg said.
Many of the counts against Gaspar alleged sexual battery or penetration "by fraud," a ruse of pretending the illegal contact was for medical care.
Rosenberg had just undergone surgery and recalls being in considerable pain. She said it was her first time in a hospital, and she was not versed in a nursing assistant's duties or responsibilities. But she said she knew something was not right when she saw that Gaspar was not wearing gloves.
"I was in no way able to fight it off, and in no way wanted it to happen to me," she said.
Formal sentencing was scheduled for July 9.