Colorado – A former Pueblo police officer who was arrested in November 2016 on sexual assault charges was sentenced to serve more than a year in the Pueblo County jail and 10 years of probation.
Benjamin Candelaria, 48, accepted a plea agreement in which he pleaded guilty to criminal attempt to commit sexual assault, a class 5 felony, and first-degree official misconduct, a class 2 misdemeanor.
A class 4 felony count of sexual assault, as well as a class 1 misdemeanor count of unlawful sexual contact, was dismissed by the district attorney’s office.
Candelaria was sentenced by Pueblo District Court Judge Larry Schwartz to 10 years of sex offender intensive supervised probation and 90 days in jail for the felony count of criminal attempt to commit sexual assault, and 12 months in jail for the official misconduct charge.
The jail sentences will be served consecutively, meaning Candelaria will serve a total of 15 months in jail.
Candelaria must also register as a sex offender, and he can’t have contact with anyone under 18 years of age except for his daughter and stepson, the judge ordered.
Candelaria was arrested in November 2016 after it was reported that he touched a domestic violence victim while in the process of having her to fill out paperwork about her case.
The victim reported at the hospital where she was treated for injuries she sustained in the domestic violence assault that she was touched by Candelaria.
Detective Raymond Purvis of the Pueblo Police Department testified about the incident at a preliminary hearing held in February 2017.
Purvis said Candelaria and another officer arrived at the domestic violence call about 12:45 a.m. Nov. 3, 2016, contacted the suspect and observed the female victim lying on the floor inside the home, not moving and unresponsive. She had been struck multiple times in the head with a wrench and was kicked.
The victim eventually got up with the assistance of Candelaria, and Candelaria reportedly ordered that a fire/rescue call that was placed for the victim be canceled, Purvis said.
It was also determined that she had drank about a fifth of tequila, according to Purvis’ testimony.
The domestic violence suspect eventually was transported to the Pueblo County jail by the other officer on the call.
It was at this point. Purvis said, that Candelaria went out to the police car to retrieve paperwork and turned his body camera off as he walked back to the residence. The body camera was off for approximately 15 minutes.
Purvis said when the footage came back on, Candelaria and the victim were sitting at a kitchen table, and a bra that wasn’t previously there was on the table. Sexual comments being exchanged between the two can be heard on the body camera footage.
Purvis said during the course of his time at the residence, Candelaria pointed his body camera away from the woman numerous times during some of their interactions.
Candelaria was at the home for around two hours. Purvis said a call of that nature typically takes about 10 minutes.
He also said it’s not standard to cancel a fire/rescue call for a victim of domestic violence.
Purvis said the body camera footage shows Candelaria sexually touching the woman, but it isn’t clear if there was any penetration.
The victim’s child was present in the home during the incident, according to investigators.
The police department placed Candelaria on administrative leave following his arrest, and he resigned his position on Dec. 27, 2016. Candelaria had served as an officer for 17 years.
Candelaria spoke before being sentenced on Friday.
Before asking the judge to give him the ability to still take care of his family, Candelaria apologized and said he takes responsibility for his actions.
In 2009, Candelaria suffered life-threatening injuries when his police cruiser was struck head-on. He was treated for bleeding on the brain and a collapsed lung following the wreck.
Randy Jorgensen, Candelaria’s attorney, said Friday that he thinks the brain injury Candelaria suffered in that wreck has a lot to do with his actions. A friend of Candelaria’s who spoke on his behalf also mentioned the accident having an impact on Candelaria.
The judge told Candelaria that the conduct he engaged in not only affected the victim, but also her child, community members and the police force.
“The ripple effect of your actions can’t be measured,” Schwartz said.
Purvis, who worked with Candelaria at the police department, said Friday before the judge that he learned what a monster Candelaria had become through investigating the incident.
Purvis also told the court that he thinks there could be other victims who haven’t come forward.