World-renowned geneticist William French Anderson was sentenced Friday to 14 years in prison for molesting an employee's daughter who took martial arts classes at his home.
Superior Court Judge Michael E. Pastor said Anderson had caused "incalculable" emotional damage to a victim he described as an insecure and trusting immigrant.
"Because of intellectual arrogance, he persisted and he got away with as much as he could," the judge said.
Anderson, 70, wore a gray sport jacket and white shirt and had shoulder-length white hair. He listened intently throughout the proceedings but showed no emotion and only spoke to acknowledge that he understood his rights. His lawyers said they would appeal.
Anderson was charged after his victim wore a wire during the investigation and confronted him about the sexual abuse that occurred after he began teaching her tae kwon do.
In the tape-recorded conversation played for jurors during the trial, Anderson told the girl, "I just did it, just something in me was just evil," according to the tape.
Anderson was Time magazine's runner-up for Man of the Year in 1995. He has been called the "father of gene therapy" for his work on a promising but controversial experimental medical treatment that involves injecting healthy genes into sick patients.
He claimed to be the first person to successfully treat a patient with the therapy in 1990, launching the field, although the claim has been disputed.
His victim, now 19, read a statement before sentencing.
"Roughly three years ago, I wanted to kill myself," she said. "I couldn't live with all the pain ... He maliciously destroyed my world to fulfill his own sick pleasures."
Anderson was convicted last July of one count of continuous sexual abuse of a child under age 14 and three counts of committing a lewd act upon a child. He had faced a maximum sentence of 18 years in prison.
Prosecutors said Anderson molested the girl from 1997 to 2001, starting when she was 10 years old.
The judge also ordered Anderson to pay the family of the girl about $52,000 in restitution for past therapy and to cover the cost of any future treatment. He also imposed fines and fees of about $16,000.
Blair Berk, his lawyer, argued that he could be targeted for beatings or death in prison because he is a high-profile sex offender. She had sought probation calling for her client to conduct research into diseases such as diabetes.
The judge gave Anderson credit for 237 days for time served and good behavior. The judge also noted the court had received an extraordinary number of letters supporting Anderson, including one from a Nobel Prize winner.
He could be eligible for parole after serving 85 percent of his sentence.
Defense attorneys argued during his three-week trial that Anderson was a friendly mentor to the girl and was being smeared by her mother, who wanted to assume his position as director of the Gene Therapies Laboratories at the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine.
Anderson, a resident of wealthy San Marino, resigned last September and is no longer on its faculty, the university said.
Defense attorney Barry Tarlow said during the trial that Anderson was guilty only of pressuring the child to do well in school.
In court, Anderson said he thought the tape-recorded confrontation was about the emotional abuse he'd inflicted on her.
"If you cause somebody to crash, flunk out, that's just evil," he said. "When I realized she was falsely accusing me of sexual abuse, then I said whatever I had to say to get out of there."