SAN DIEGO — A former La Jolla restaurant owner sentenced to 40 years in prison for sexually assaulting four women will get a new day in court.
The 4th District Court of Appeals ruled in October that Daniel Dorado must be resentenced, applying new California sentencing laws.
Dorado, 64, has a February 16 status conference set in downtown San Diego court.
The women who said they were drugged and unconscious when Dorado sexually assaulted them spoke at his sentencing hearing in November 2020.
“He has shown a history of repeatedly assaulting women using date rape drugs. He is a repeat offender who needs to be incarcerated so he can never commit this crime again,” one victim told the court.
“Years after the assault, I still don't feel safe going to job interviews in person alone. I don't feel safe doing outdoor activities alone. I can't tolerate being around men, not even family,” another woman said during her victim impact statement in 2020.
Dorado owned several businesses, including a now-closed restaurant in La Jolla.
A jury convicted him of getting four women intoxicated and then sexually assaulting them, between 2009 and 2018, by inviting them into his businesses for job interviews or meeting them on online dating apps.
San Diego County Superior Court Judge Charles Rogers sentenced Dorado to 40 years in prison after citing several aggravating factors, including the fact that Dorado continued to claim the sex was consensual.
Some of the women testified they were unconscious during the assaults.
The appellate court ruled Dorado has to be resentenced by the same judge, who must now consider two new California laws that might make Dorado eligible for a lesser sentence.
The laws were put in place by the passage of SB 567 “to limit the situations under which an upper-term sentence could be imposed” and AB 518 “to change the discretion of sentencing courts as to which of multiple prison terms to stay or execute,” according to the appellate court decision.
“There's been a thought in this country, particularly California, that these put people in jail forever and throw away the key laws just haven't worked,” said veteran defense attorney Jan Ronis, who was not involved in the Dorado case.
Ronis said recent changes to California sentencing laws could be retroactive and have to be applied relatively, even in cases that draw public outrage.
“These are sensitive issues. It's tough for the public sometimes to comprehend the complexity of these laws. But, in general, they intend to make punishment more closely fit the crime,” said Ronis.
It remains unclear whether the victims of Dorado’s crimes will appear again in court to give victim impact statements.
The sentencing was set for March 3, 2023.
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