CHICAGO -- Esperanza Medina bowed her head and wept in court Monday morning as a Cook County judge sentenced a Cicero, Ill., woman to 44 years in prison for organizing an acid attack against her in 2008.
The assault with sulfuric acid burned a quarter of Medina's body and left the 50-year-old former social worker with red and white scars covering her face, neck, chest and arms.
A Criminal Court jury convicted Ofelia Garcia, 60, in September of three counts of heinous battery in connection with the attack.
"This crime was something that was cold and calculated," Judge Nicholas Ford said before handing down the sentence. "What she (Garcia) did is terrible and deserves to be punished severely."
Garcia and her former daughter-in-law, Maria Olvera-Garcia, plotted the assault after Garcia's longtime boyfriend, Gustavo Alvarez, ended his relationship with both women in 2007 to live with Medina.
The pair then recruited three teenagers to carry out the attack, according to prosecutors.
The teens, who pleaded guilty to juvenile charges in exchange for their cooperation, testified at the trials of both women.
Olvera-Garcia was also found guilty and is scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday.
On Monday, Ofelia Garcia sat in a blue jail jumpsuit beside her attorney as she listened to an interpreter translate the proceedings into Spanish.
Before the sentencing, Medina's daughter, Lissette, read a statement her mother had written to the court.
The statement detailed what Medina has endured since the attack -- the physical pain, the multiple skin grafts, the depression, the stares.
"I never thought my life would change so much in just seconds," wrote Medina, who had to move back into her 75-year-old mother's house after the attack. "I had so many dreams still to achieve, but they were broken down."
Garcia declined an opportunity to speak before the sentencing. She has previously denied the charges.
Her attorney, Tim Roellig, stressed to the judge that Garcia suffers from a heart ailment and does not have any previous felonies.
Taking that into account, Ford said he decided to sentence Garcia to just one year under the maximum 45-year prison term.
"They took a woman who was employed in a full-time position and altered her forever," said Ford, his voice booming off the walls of the courtroom. "In certain circumstances such as this, the magnitude of the offense, the coordination and brutality of the acts, the heartlessness of it all, just make it necessary to think more about punishment than rehabilitation."
As Garcia was led from the courtroom, she turned back to her family, waved and smiled.
Roellig said he was confident an appeal would be filed.
Standing before a group of reporters later, Medina said she felt a sense of closure and happiness that she hasn't felt in the two years since the attack.
After Olvera-Garcia's sentencing later this week, Medina said, "I won't look back."
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