Donny Pauling

Prior to his trial, Donny Pauling prepares to represent himself at the Sutter County Courthouse on Thursday, September 24, 2015 in Yuba City.

A Sutter County judge called Donny Pauling a lying and manipulative sexual predator who has convinced himself he is in love with a 16-year-old girl.

"We don't molest people we love," Sutter County Superior Court Judge Susan Green told Pauling.

Her statements Thursday came at the end of a long and emotional hearing that saw Pauling, 42, sentenced to six years in prison and ordered to register as a sex offender for life.

The sentence was a result of a stipulated plea bargain in which he pleaded no contest to victimizing three teen girls. Of the six years, he has to serve at least 50 percent.

The plea was entered weeks after he began representing himself in his criminal case. Pauling was convicted of:

• Multiple sexual acts and statutory rape of a girl from the time she was 14 to 16 years old.

• Arranging a meeting with Sutter County Sheriff's Capt. Lewis McElfresh for the purpose of performing lewd acts with another 16-year-old girl.

• Annoying or molesting a third 16-year-old girl.

The Appeal-Democrat does not name the victims of sex crimes.

Letters from the family members of two girls and personal statements made by another described the effects Pauling and the case had on their health and well-being. They all said a six-year sentence was too short.

The mother of one victim wrote a letter to the court, saying she could not face Pauling without having a physical reaction. The letter was read aloud by Stephanie Cooper with Victim Services.

The victim of the ongoing sexual abuse has been in and out of the hospital with intense stomach pains, which doctors say is stress-related, the letter said. Some days the girl cries and screams all day.

"I doubt if in the future she will ever be able to know what a normal relationship with a man is like," Cooper read.

That Pauling wrote and posted a letter online exposing details of her life further destroyed her, she said.

Pauling recently wrote on his blog and on social media pages about falling in love with one of the girls, accusing the others of lying and saying a 16-year-old had him wrapped around her finger.

Green ordered him to have the posts removed and to not post similar statements in the future as it may violate a court order to not harass the victims.

The second victim confronted Pauling directly with a statement to the court.

"I've been called many things in my life," the girl said. "Yet, the most imprinting titles I was given were a liar and the victim."

She said she's run away from homes, slept under bridges, lost her privacy and her self-esteem.

"This past year I've been interrogated, I've been the gossip, I've been moved from foster home to foster home, I've been rejected and abandoned. Yet, when this all began, I never felt like a victim. It wasn't until his statement that he made accusing me of being a liar, the comments made about me on Facebook, news articles and as I walked by. That's when it all sunk in," she said.

Her helplessness was answered, she said, when she was placed in a foster home with a loving family. With their help and the help of her boyfriend, she is discovering her "strength and ability to recover and the power of forgiveness."

"I will do good things in my life, and that's because beyond fear lies freedom," she said.

The sentencing hearing began with Pauling arguing he hasn't received a fair case, and newspaper articles have printed inaccurate information. He alleged, among other things, a district attorney's investigator was having an affair with a witness, and he was denied a fair bail amount, which he said kept him from hiring his own investigator.

Deputy District Attorney Anu Chopra said her office investigated the alleged affair and found no evidence.

Within the first few words spoken about the first victim's health condition, Pauling began to loudly cry.

In his statement to the court before sentencing, Pauling said if he could talk to the victims, he would tell them he has no animosity and no ill will. He said they are all heroic and strong.

"I have great remorse. I weep every single day," he said. He did not say for what he is remorseful.

When Pauling met the first victim, he said, he was a positive influence on her and her education, and he tried to have the same impact on the other victims.

"There is no excuse for what happened," he said.

"I fell in love with (a girl) who's 16 years old. There is something wrong when a 40-year-old falls in love with a 16-year-old. I'm too close to figure out what is wrong," he said.

Pauling said he will obtain counseling.

Green said if someone loves a 16-year-old, they don't have sex with her, they don't molest her, they don't smoke marijuana with her, and they don't take photos of her and post them on the Internet.

"I don't think I've seen anyone as manipulative as you," she said.

The judge said Pauling's behavior is not love, it's "grooming." Pauling, a sexual predator, betrayed a young girl for whom he should have been caring.

"If it was in my control, I'd order you to have no contact with any girl under the age of 18 for the rest of your life," Green said.

CONTACT reporter Monica Vaughan at 749-4783.

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