By David Brand
A disgraced correction officer convicted of sexually abusing his preteen stepdaughter for years received the maximum sentence in Queens Supreme Court on Wednesday.
Juan Tirado, a veteran of the Department of Correction, was convicted of felony sexual abuse last month after a Queens jury determined that he had routinely molested his stepdaughter beginning when she was just 11 years old.
Justice Peter Vallone Jr. expressed his disdain for the crimes while sentencing the East Elmhurst resident to seven years in prison. He also directed Tirado to register as a sex offender and to sign an order of protection.
“The facts in this case disgust me,” Vallone said. “Her words play back in my head. How she was awakened over and over.”
Vallone recalled the victim’s vivid testimony in which she described, “the light in the hallway” as Tirado approached, his smell and the way he felt on top of her as he pressed his fingers into her vagina.
Vallone instructed Tirado to cease communication with the victim. Tirado bowed his head as Vallone delivered the maximum sentence.
“No one can contact her on your behalf,” Vallone said, introducing the order of protection. “If someone tries that, I’ll put them in jail and add to your jail time.”
Vallone said he would recommend to the Department of Correction that Tirado be held in protective custody because, as a former CO, he will likely be harassed by other inmates.
Assistant District Attorney Lauren Parsons read a letter from the victim who described how Tirado’s abuse “devastated” her, altered her life and eroded her relationship with her mother.
“I felt like I was worthless,” the letter said. “I was depressed and I felt like no one could love me if they found out I was being molested.”
“Words cannot describe how sad I’ve been that this happened to me for four years and I was too scared to tell anyone because [he said], “If you tell, no one will believe you.”
Parsons condemned Tirado for filling “the courtroom with uniformed corrections officers” as “a calculated means of intimidating a young and vulnerable victim” during her testimony.
She also read a letter from the victim’s mother, Tirado’s ex-wife.
“The person we all looked to for protection was the person we all needed protection from,” the letter said.
Tirado declined to speak during sentencing. His attorney Benjamin Heinrich asked for leniency, citing Tirado’s clean record prior to his arrest, work at Ground Zero after the 9/11 terrorist attack and his tenure in law enforcement.
“He’s never been involved with the law before except to enforce it,” Heinrich said.
The argument failed to sway Vallone.