Ex-firefighter says his crime haunts him every day of his life

Benavente asks for his 30-year prison term to be reduced

A former firefighter who is serving a 30-year prison term in a federal prison in the U.S. mainland for sexually exploiting two girls, said that his crime haunts him every day of his life.

In a letter to U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona, where he also begged to Manglona to reduce his sentence, Richard Sullivan Benavente said, “I wish the girls are clean and sober and trying to live a normal life.”

In the letter that was filed in the District Court last Dec. 30, Benavente, who is currently in prison in New York, apologized to the girls and their family, to the court, and the community, saying he was under the influence of methamphetamine or “ice” at that time and wasn’t thinking straight and seeing clearly.

Benavente said he has been “clean” now for almost seven years and that he plans on staying sober whether he is in prison or not.

“I enjoy being sober,” he said, adding that he is learning new tools to handle his problems.

Benavente said he did try to cooperate with Federal Bureau of Investigation special agent Haejun Park and the court’s team before, but then let his anger and confusion mess him up.
He said he did not understand the law and should have asked more questions when his case was still pending in court.

The former firefighter said he misses his children and his family. “To think that I won’t ever be with them again is so painful,” he said.

Benavente said he is still in shock over the 30-year prison term imposed on him. “[It] seems like a lifetime,” he said.

He acknowledged that he messed up and deserves to spend some time behind bars and better himself but he also appealed to Manglona to enable him to prove to her, the people, and his family that he can be a better person.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit declined last April to entertain Benavente’s appeal, saying it is a closed case and that his sentence had already been affirmed.
In June 2018, Manglona denied Benavente’s request for a review of his case and his sentence.

In October 2017, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the District Court’s 30-year prison sentence on Benavente. The Ninth Circuit judges ruled that Manglona did not abuse her discretion in imposing a two-level sentencing enhancement on Benavente.

Manglona concluded that Benavente obstructed justice by lying to the U.S. government and testifying falsely at the trial of another defendant, thereby violating his plea agreement.
Manglona sentenced Benavente in 2016 to the statutory maximum. In 2013, a federal grand jury indicted Benavente on several counts of sexual exploitation of a child.

In 2014, he pleaded guilty to sexual exploitation of a child.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com

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