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La Plata County man gets prison for violating sexual assault probation

Vance Lee Valencia committed a second sex offense
Valencia in 2013

A 52-year-old La Plata County man was sentenced Thursday to seven years to life in prison for committing a second sex offense while on probation for a previous sexual assault.

Vance Lee Valencia was originally sentenced to two years in county jail and 10 years’ probation for a sexual assault in 2013. He served the jail time and was on probation when he allegedly committed another sex offense in June.

Because Valencia violated his probation in the 2013 case, he appeared for a resentencing hearing Thursday in front of Judge Suzanne Carlson, who imposed a prison sentence of seven years to life followed by three years of parole.

“He has no boundaries,” Carlson said. “I’m convinced if I release him, there will be new victims.”

In the early morning hours of Jan. 1, 2013, investigators say Valencia got into an altercation with his partner, and started breaking glasses. He then grabbed the woman by the hair and dragged her around the house.

The victim told authorities Valencia then slapped her in the face and head as he dragged her around the house. At one point, Valencia threw the woman into a bathtub and turned on the cold water.

He then dragged the woman into the kitchen to make her clean up the broken glass, and started burning a phone and her clothes in a woodstove, according to the arrest affidavit.

Valencia then allegedly ripped her clothes off and digitally raped her. The woman told investigators she feared for her life, and that Valencia had previously abused her over the course of their seven-year relationship.

After serving the two-year jail sentence, while Valencia was on probation, which included sexual offender treatment, he was arrested in June on suspicion of unlawful sexual contact, a misdemeanor, and failing to register as a sex offender.

According to an arrest affidavit, one of Valencia’s female employees reported to authorities he had grabbed her breast while at work. Investigators also learned Valencia was a month past his annual registration requirement as a sexual offender.

At a sentencing hearing for those charges on Tuesday, Deputy District Attorney Bradley Neagos asked the court impose a 30-day jail sentence, as well as three years of probation.

Neagos said the victim was a 23-year-old woman who worked for Valencia.

“I think this is one of the most disturbing crimes that we see in county court,” Neagos said. “Mr. Valencia was a person in power taking advantage of a young female that was his employee for his own sexual desires.”

La Plata County Court Judge Anne Woods, overseeing the case, declined to give Valencia any jail time, instead imposing three years of probation that includes sex offender probation.

“One of my roles is to consider community safety, and I don’t think you going to jail for 30 days ... actually has any effect on community safety,” Woods said. “Sex offender probation, I think, is actually a more potentially harsher punishment than jail because you have to be willing and able to work through your issues.”

But at the resentencing hearing Thursday for violating probation in the 2013 case, Carlson said sex offender treatment has obviously not worked for Valencia, evidenced by him committing another sex offense while actively enrolled in sex offender classes.

And, Carlson said Valencia was given the chance in 2013 for a rehabilitative-type sentence, and he made little progress over the past six years. As a result, Carlson said stricter measures needed to be taken.

“I’m fairly certain I told him don’t ever come back here,” Carlson said.

Deputy District Attorney-Appellate Sean Murray said at the hearing Thursday the victim in the June case has been “substantially traumatized” and Valencia has shown little indication of accountability.

“He needs to be incapacitated until he makes progress in treatment,” Murray said.

Valencia’s defense attorney, Joel Fry, said Valencia is a military veteran who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. Fry added that Valencia recognizes he was wrong to grab his female employee’s breast.

Valencia, for his part, told the court he was sorry and that he takes full responsibility for his actions. He asked for probation instead of prison time.

“Please give me this chance to prove myself,” he said.

Valencia was taken into custody at the end of the court hearing.

jromeo@durangoherald.com