Man convicted in sex abuse case sentenced to 280 years to life
A Nevada County man is expected to spend the rest of his life in prison after being found guilty of sexually abusing and assaulting a former domestic partner over a prolonged period.
On Tuesday, Wesley Carl Panighetti, 62, was sentenced to 280 years to life in state prison, after having been convicted on nine different felony charges earlier this year. Panighetti was formally convicted on three counts of forcible sodomy, two counts of forcible oral copulation, one count of criminal threats, one count of first-degree burglary, one count of attempting to dissuade a witness, and one count of battery upon a protected person, Nevada County District Attorney Jesse Wilson said.
Described by one prosecutor as “every woman’s worst nightmare,” Panighetti had been accused of victimizing his former partner during the course of an intermittent relationship that culminated in an incident of sexual assault, which prompted the victim to contact law enforcement.
Panighetti’s criminal history — which included two separate strike offenses in accordance with California’s three-strikes law — combined with the gravity of the charges that he was convicted on, both played a role in the court’s decision to hand down the 280-year to life sentence, Wilson said in a statement.
Wilson also praised the victim for having the courage to come forward with the allegations against her former partner, adding that the woman’s cooperation with law enforcement was key in securing Panighetti’s conviction and sentence. At Tuesday’s sentencing hearing, prosecutors read a formal statement on behalf of the victim.
“In (the statement), she detailed the terrors she had been subjected to at the hands of the defendant over the course of their 20-year, on-and-off relationship,” Wilson said. In that statement, the victim recalled, “the power that he had exercised over her, her resulting trauma, and her appreciation to the Nevada County Deputy DA handing the case…”
Panighetti, who was originally arrested in June 2020 in connection with the case, was described by prosecutors as a skillful manipulator who had managed to coerce his victim into staying in the relationship even after he had repeatedly abused her.
In perhaps his greatest act of deception, prosecutors say that the defendant convinced the woman to sign a contract that Panighetti would later use in court to defend himself, arguing that the victim had consented to acts of bondage, domination, and sadomasochism that often occur outside the boundaries of most sexually intimate relationships.
However, this contract itself was the result of coercion, as the victim had only signed under significant “duress” as a result of continual manipulation on the part of Panighetti, said Deputy District Attorney Helenaz Hill, who prosecuted the case.
Stephen Wyer is a staff writer with The Union. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
On Tuesday, Sept. 21, the Court sentenced defendant Wesley Panighetti to 280 years to life for 3 counts of forcible sodomy, 2 counts of forcible oral copulation, one count of criminal threats, one count of first degree burglary, one count of attempting to dissuade a witness, and one count of battery upon a protected person (DV victim). Defendant’s indeterminate (life) sentence was based on the fact that he had two prior strike offenses for felony assault which also provided the basis for 2 prior serious felony enhancements (Nickel priors) that applied to each of the felony counts for which he was convicted, increasing his exposure on each felony count to 35 to life. The Court denied the defense request to strike the strike priors under Penal Code section 1385 as well as the enhancements. He was ordered to register as sex offender for life and to submit bodily fluid samples and prints for entry into the CODIS DNA system. A criminal protective order will also be issued to further protect the victim.
At the sentencing, the prosecution read the victim’s impact statement, in which she detailed the terrors she had been subjected to at the hands of the defendant over the course of their 20 year on and off relationship, the power he had exercised over her, her resulting trauma, and her appreciation to the Nevada County Deputy DA handing the case as well as her Victim-Witness advocate Kim Leland for supporting her throughout the emotionally and mentally taxing process of a criminal prosecution.
This case was investigated by Nevada County Sheriff’s Office and the District Attorney Investigators and prosecuted by DDA Helenaz Hill. ‘
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