By CHRIS BATEMAN
"He has no redeeming qualities. There is nothing likable about him."
With those words, Tuolumne County Superior Court Judge Eleanor Provost yesterday sentenced Albert Graf of Sonora to 77 years and eight months in prison, virtually assuring he will die behind bars. Graf, 38, must by law serve at least 66 years before even being eligible for parole.
Public Defender Robert Price, who labeled the sentence "cruel and unusual," said he would appeal.
A jury in June convicted Graf of kidnapping his estranged and legally blind wife, Sara, on Jan. 11, holding her against her will in a travel trailer for most of two days and forcing her to have sex with him.
"This man is a danger and a substantial danger," said Provost. "I feel that if he gets out, he will hurt or kill (Sara). If he gets out, he will be back."
As Graf listened silently in shackles and a red jail jumpsuit, Provost pointed out that he has shown no remorse or guilt over what he has done.
"He doesn't have a clue," said the judge. "He's clueless about what he has done to his wife and his family. He feels his wife is his property and that he can do whatever he wants to her. He won't leave her alone and, unless I put him away, he'll never leave her alone."
Graf in a letter to the court he said he had been "set up" by his wife and a former friend.
"The so-called judicial system failed," he wrote. "It failed to serve and protect the real victim. I am asking that the courts be easy on me."
Sara Graf, 34, was not present for the sentencing and wrote no letter.
"She feels she has made her views known in previous testimony," said Albert Graf's pre-sentencing probation report. "She and her children have been embarrassed about the public attention the case has produced in the local media."
In an interview with The Union Democrat less than a month after Graf's January arrest, Sara described the latter years of their marriage as "a living hell" and detailed a life of abuse and control.
Sara's ordeal came to a close when she decided to quit protecting her husband.
"This is all going to end, and I'm not going to take it anymore," she told The Democrat in February.
By law, Graf, a three-strikes felon, won't be eligible for parole until he is 104.
"We think it is cruel and usual punishment," said Public Defender Robert Price. "It's the kind of punishment generally reserved for those who snatch women off street corners and rape them not for defendants involved in long-running problems with their wives."
Price suggested a 20-year term, "so Mr. Graf can at least see the light of day before he is 60." But Provost instead followed the recommendations of the probation office and the district attorney.
But Deputy District Attorney Jim Newkirk pointing out that the 77-plus years Graf received is only about half the maximum argued the sentence is deserved.
Probation Officer Bob Winters said Graf was already on probation for a 2002 felony assault conviction involving Sara when he forced her into his travel trailer in January.
She was freed from that East Sonora trailer after a sighting of Albert Graf's car led deputies there. The officers found her "upset, shaking and on the verge of tears."
"Just get me out of here," she pleaded.
Graf's probation report said he has a significant history of violence, is remorseless, defiant, overly reactive, impulsive and a risk to the victim and possibly the community. It also says he has six prior felonies and has served two prison terms. The report rates him as unsatisfactory on probation.
Graf was sentenced to 25-year-to-life terms for each of three of the 10 charges on which he was convicted kidnap, spousal rape and forced oral copulation. Another two years and eight months was added for his conviction on violating probation in the 2002 case. Sentences on the other charges including false imprisonment, violating a court order, assault and making threats were stayed.
Albert and Sara Graf were married in 1989 and have daughters of 14, 12 and 9.
Graf moved to Tuolumne County in 1994 from the San Jose area, and owned his own auto body repair shop, worked as a nutritionist for the Tuolumne County Schools Office and, most recently, was employed at the warehouse of a Sonora-area carpet business.
Graf's grandmother, Mary Galvan; his mother, Josephine Graf; and an aunt, a daughter from a previous relationship and a former co-worker all sent the court letters asking leniency.
Josephine Graf said Sara is a habitual liar.
Galvan called Albert "a good grandson whose family always came first" and "the best father in the county."
"I pray every night for my grandson, that this nightmare will end and that someone out there will believe him and help him," she wrote.