MARTINEZ -- A 32-year-old man was sentenced to two years in state prison Monday for trying to rape a Las Lomas High School teacher in a Walnut Creek park in June before the 30-year-old woman freed herself by making him bleed.
"This man has jeopardized the safety not only of women like me, but of my students, and I don't want us to become a community like other communities, where little girls, college students, daughters and wives and sisters can't walk home," Jessica Bacchus said at her attacker's sentencing. The history teacher and mock trial coach, who took a planned yearlong sabbatical from the school after she was attacked June 9, gave this newspaper permission to use her name.
"I have the right to mental safety, and I have the right to live in a peaceable community. And because I defended myself, that does not give him a free pass," Bacchus said.
Francisco Hernandez-Murrieta, of Walnut Creek, pleaded guilty Monday to one count of assault with intent to commit rape. A second felony charge of false imprisonment was dismissed as part of a plea deal. He is required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life as part of the sentence.
Bacchus was walking home shortly before 1 a.m. after celebrating the end of the school year with other teachers in downtown Walnut Creek. It was in a dark area of Civic Park, where the old railroad bridge meets the Iron Horse Trial, that Hernandez-Murrieta grabbed her from behind and brought her to the ground.
Hernandez-Murrieta had Bacchus on her back and her mouth covered when she began pummeling him in the face with keys sticking out from between the fingers of her enclosed fist. She also bit him.
The keys, which Bacchus says she instinctively put in her fist less than a minute before she was attacked, punctured his face, causing him to bleed. He got up and ran away, only to be caught minutes later by Walnut Creek officers responding to Bacchus' 911 call.
"The police department and the DA's office and everyone else who helped me were flawless -- I felt completely supported the whole time," Bacchus said. "It scared me pretty bad. It's nothing that should be brushed aside, and the court, I think, respected that."
Both Judge Clare Maier and deputy district attorney Alison Chandler commended Bacchus.
"The law holds violators accountable for crimes like this even when the ultimate violation of a woman's body -- rape -- was not accomplished," Chandler said. "Jessica Bacchus is a hero to women, and I am proud of her for standing up for herself."
Contact Malaika Fraley at 925-234-1684. Follow her at Twitter.com/malaikafraley.