In a heartwrenching moment in court, a woman who was sexually assaulted by a San Diego dental assistant told her attacker he has "ruined" her for life.
"Something like this doesn’t just go away. It lingers and it eats at you every single day, everywhere you go," the victim, who will not be identified, said in a downtown San Diego courtroom Friday. "This has ruined me – physically, mentally, emotionally."
The woman was speaking to El Cajon resident and former dental assistant Luis Ramos, 36, who pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting more than a dozen female patients while they were under anesthesia at the dental office where he worked.
A judge handed down the maximum sentence to Ramos Friday: 15 years in prison, and said the defendant remains "a danger to society."
Ramos pleaded guilty to the charges of sexual assault three months ago, during his preliminary hearing.
He was arrested on Feb. 4, two weeks after he allegedly touched a 17-year-old patient while she underwent a dental procedure at the Park Boulevard Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery Office in University Heights, where Ramos worked.
An attorney for that victim, identified only as “Jane Doe,” read a letter from the teenager in court Friday, as physically appearing at the sentencing was too difficult for her.
“The molestation has scarred my life,” Jane Doe’s letter read. “Fear; I suffer with nightmares of Ramos coming to my house, coming into my room. I fear that Ramos might hurt my family. I have to spend many nights sleeping with my mother so she can comfort me from my terrifying dreams.”
The girl’s letter asked the judge to impose the maximum sentence or more, given how many victims have been hurt by Ramos.
According to investigators, Ramos sexually assaulted a total of 13 victims at the dental practice between January 2015 and January 2016. One of those victims was in a wheelchair, the San Diego District Attorney’s office said.
The victims ages ranged between 17 and 63, with most being younger patients who were assaulted while getting their wisdom teeth extracted.
All of the crimes took place while the women were under anesthesia. Ramos was tasked with cleaning up the area after the dental procedure, which is when investigators said the assaults occurred.
Prosecutors said Ramos admitted to inappropriately touching nine women, sexually penetrating one victim and trying to do the same to another woman. With his guilty plea, Ramos also admitted to three misdemeanor counts of sexual battery.
Most of the sex crimes were captured on security cameras installed at the dental practice. The owner of the practice, Dr. Steven Podstreleny, said the cameras were installed at the business in 2009 in “an effort at transparency” and to provide patients with an “extra layer of protection.”
In an interview soon after Ramos' arrest in February, Podstreleny told NBC 7 the case came as a shock to Ramos' co-workers. He said "trust was violated" when Ramos committed the crimes.
Investigators with the San Diego Police Department combed through more than 500 hours of those surveillance videos from the recovery room where the assaults took place.
In court on Friday, another attorney read an impact statement on behalf of three more of Ramos’ victims, who talked about the videos and called Ramos a “serial predator” who planned his assaults on unconscious women in vulnerable positions.
“He preyed on women who couldn’t defend themselves,” the group’s statement read. “Ramos knew what he was doing. He had his sexual assault routine down to a science.”
The group’s statement said that – as seen in the footage of the crimes – Ramos often positioned his back to the security camera “to try to hide his actions.” When he was arrested, the group’s statement said Ramos called a co-worker and asked that co-worker to destroy the videos.
“Those are the actions of a calculated predator,” the group’s statement continued.
The victims said they now suffer from a range of medical issues due to the assaults, including depression and anxiety. They also have a difficult time going to the dentist or doctor, as they feel they can no longer trust medical providers.
The victims also said they have trouble sleeping. One of Ramos’ victims now has to sleep in a locked room in her home, separate from her husband.
The anonymous victim who spoke in person at the sentencing hearing said she also suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from her assault.
“I was not only taken advantage of on camera – I was also taken to another location off camera where the assault continued,” she said, speaking through tears. “There are mysteries that I have to live without knowing for the rest of my life, and some that I have to try to forget.”
As the woman talked, Ramos looked down, sighed and also appeared to be choked up.
“I am disgusted to be sitting in a room with such a perverted, distorted, sick person,” his victim added. “The feeling of disgust, shame, anger and sadness never seem to go away.”
The victim said she is newly married and couldn’t even enjoy her recent wedding day without thinking of Ramos. She said he has caused her “agony and struggles” that no punishment can ever fix.
“I hope and pray that you never see the light of day again. That you suffer what you’ve put so many of us through and that you wish that you were never born,” she said to him.
Ramos’ attorney said that up until the assaults, Ramos – a former U.S. military service member – had lived a law-abiding life.
The attorney said Ramos was abusing alcohol and addicted to methamphetamine at the time of the sex crimes, which led him to do horrible things.
“It caused him to make terrible decisions and ruin lives,” his attorney said.
She said Ramos is remorseful and embarrassed, and can’t believe what he did because, in her words, “He was out of his mind on methamphetamine.”
The attorney said Ramos feels sorry for his victims. She asked the judge for lenience so her client could be rehabilitated through a long term drug program.
After his victims spoke, Ramos also addressed the court.
“I feel deeply sorry and ashamed for my actions and behavior. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about this. I regret my decisions,” he said, adding that he was addicted to drugs.
“I lost control, lost who I was as a person. I was weakened. I could not make appropriate decisions,” said Ramos. “I know that I deserve punishment.”
He said he now spends his days reflecting on his actions and hopes time can heal his victims and help transform him into a better man. He also asked the judge for a chance at rehabilitation.
In the end, in addition to his 15-year prison sentence, the judge denied probation for Ramos. He also questioned Ramos’ decision to get married and have a baby after his arrest, calling that a "selfish" act that potentially added more victims of assault to his roster.
The judge said Ramos was in a position of trust and called his crimes “callous” and “planned” and said the videos prove it all.