|Daniel Bernal (Booking Photo)|
A child molestation suspect who led police on a high-speed pursuit that ended with him trying to jump off a freeway overpass in Ontario faces more than 80 years to life in prison following his conviction.
A jury convicted Daniel Cortez Bernal, 56, of Hesperia, of 12 felony counts late Monday in Victorville Superior Court, ending a four-year legal battle that involved three child sex victims in Orange and San Bernardino counties.
“This defendant molested his nieces when they were ages 6 to 13 years old, taking advantage of a position of trust,” Deputy District Attorney David Foy, who prosecuted the case, said.
The jury found Bernal guilty of two counts of forcible oral copulation and seven counts of lewd act with a child for attacks on one niece; one count of continuous sexual abuse of a child in connection with another niece, and one count of lewd act with a child for fondling a third niece. He was also found guilty of felony evading police.
Foy said that due to the forcible sex acts, plus allegations of multiple victims being found true, Bernal could get 80 years, 8 months to life when he is sentenced August 7 by Judge Debra Harris.
According to testimony during a seven-day jury trial that ended Monday, Bernal sexually assaulted one niece two to three times a week from 2002 to 2007, when she was ages 6 to 11, while she lived with him in Garden Grove. The family moved to Hesperia in 2007, and the sexual assaults continued on her until she was 13, in 2009, she testified.
The victim told school authorities about the molestations on May 10, 2011, prompting an investigation by San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies. When a patrol deputy tried to stop Bernal’s SUV as it headed south on U.S. 395 in Hesperia, Bernal caught the I-15 through the Cajon pass and ran a vehicle off the road during the high-speed pursuit, according to trial testimony by Sgt. Jerry Davenport.
Bernal got as far as the I-10 overpass in Ontario, where he was apprehended by another sheriff’s deputy as he tried to jump off. Bernal later confessed that he orally copulated the niece.
After the arrest, two other victims came forward to disclose molestations that occurred in Orange County.