A 39-year-old man who fled during his trial for sexually abusing a 12-year-old girl was convicted while on the lam, and was sentenced Friday to 16 years in prison.
Robert Lewis Carella was given the maximum possible punishment by Orange County Superior Court Judge Gregg Prickett.
The judge also ordered Carella to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
Carella blamed his behavior on a gambling addiction and claimed he thought the girl was older than 14, Prickett said, citing a probation report on the case.
Carella was caught in Tijuana and extradited back to Orange County in January, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.
Carella was convicted on June 22, 2015, in absentia, of continuous sexual abuse of a child and two counts of lewd acts on a child, all felonies. The two counts of lewd acts were dropped for legal reasons because they were alleging the same crimes as the continuous sexual abuse.
Prosecutors did not reveal what relationship the defendant had with the girl, other than to say he “was in a position of trust with access to the victim,” who was sexually abused from 2008 through 2010.
Carella failed to show up for court as his attorneys were prepared to making opening statements in his trial.
The judge also rejected Carella’s request to be assigned to a state inmate firefighting crew, given the seriousness of the crime and the defendant running away from his trial.