COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE — The Spanish-language TV host convicted of sexually assaulting young girls over several decades was sentenced Wednesday to 61 years in prison.
Elpidio “Juan” Contreras, 56, was first charged in 2013 after prosecutors said he repeatedly molested an 11-year-old girl while he gave her music lessons in his Hermosa office.
After an initial wave of publicity, additional victims stepped forward, according to the Cook County State's Attorney's Office. Contreras was convicted in four cases, but one was later dismissed.
Judge Lawrence Flood on Wednesday sentenced Contreras to 61 years in prison for the three remaining convictions.
"Mr. Contreras, you are a person who had a position of power within your community," Flood said. "You violated that trust ... and the only reason you violated it was for your own selfish needs."
According to prosecutors, Contreras — who hosted "El Show De Juan Contreras" on WJYS-Channel 62 — gave each of his victims private music and voice lessons from 1994 to 2013. The girls were between the ages of 9 and 13 at the time.
Prosecutors said Contreras repeatedly raped and groped the victims, and took nude photos of the girls during private music lessons.
He was found guilty in October of predatory criminal sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual assault and aggravated criminal sexual abuse.
During a sentencing hearing Wednesday, Contreras maintained his innocence, claiming through the aid of an interpreter, "never in my life have I raped anybody."
Contreras said his son filmed a video of one of the alleged victims blowing kisses and saying, "You are No. 1, Juan," and that that behavior is not suggestive of a rape victim.
One of Contreras' relatives on Wednesday testified that Contreras raped her "thousands" of times over the course of 12 years, starting when she was 4 years old, she said.
"I am not the person that I could've been," the woman said, noting that she suffers from depression and anxiety. She told the judge she eventually ran away from home as a teen "because I couldn't take it anymore."
Contreras shook his head and rolled his eyes during the woman's testimony.
"It's very obvious that these girls have suffered serious harm and are still dealing with this," Assistant State's Attorney Elizabeth Ciaccia said. "What [Contreras] promised was singing lessons, and that's certainly not what they got."
The state's attorney's office in a news release described Contreras as a "well-known Spanish language television personality and talent promoter."
Contreras, of the 2300 block of North Kostner Avenue in Hermosa, has been in the entertainment industry for 20 years. His show featured local musical talent.
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