La Jolla restaurant owner sentenced to 40 years for sexual assaults

Gavel photo

Daniel Dorado, 62, owner of Voce del Mare, was convicted of sexually assaulting four women.

A La Jolla restaurant owner convicted of sexually assaulting four intoxicated or unconscious women during the course of nine years — some of whom he met on dates, others through work — was sentenced Nov. 17 to 40 years in prison.

Daniel Dorado owned Voce del Mare in Bird Rock when he was arrested in 2018 and charged with assaulting eight women. Last December, a jury convicted him of assaulting four of them.

San Diego County Superior Court Judge Charles Rogers handed Dorado, 62, the lengthy prison term. “I don’t mind saying this is the maximum I can impose under the law,” Rogers said.

Authorities said Dorado had invited some of the women to interview for a job and had met others via online dating. The incidents occurred between 2009 and 2018, authorities said.

Prosecutors said he offered them spiked drinks, or they were too drunk to give consent. Some said they woke up in the middle of a sex act.

Rogers said Dorado — who he said was “gregarious and social” — was “highly deceptive in the way he lured each of these victims in.”

The judge referred to a memo Dorado had sent to him.

“He blames the Me Too movement and district attorney politics on the fact that he is sitting in court,” Rogers said. “I categorically reject the notion that either of these played a role in the prosecution or conviction of this case.”

Dorado’s attorney said after the hearing that the sentence left her client “stunned.”

Dorado said the women had been drinking and that any encounter with them was consensual. Searches of his property did not turn up any date-rape drugs.

“I hold my innocence, Your Honor,” Dorado said before learning his fate. “I have never drugged anybody. ... I have never done anything that was not consensual.”

Deputy District Attorney Jessica Coto said after the hearing that the maximum sentence “was justice for not only the victims he was convicted on, but all of the victims in this case.”

Before imposing the sentence, Rogers heard from the four women the jury found had been sexually assaulted by Dorado — including one who insisted their encounter was consensual.

“I miss me,” said the first of the women to speak. She said she suffered anxiety and flashbacks and still doesn’t feel safe.

“I lost my identity,” she said. “I am no longer the same woman I was that night.”

A woman who met Dorado for a date and came forward after learning of his arrest called him “an evil individual.”

“I’m empowered,” she said. “He’s in jail and he will remain in jail.”

Another woman, who was married and the mother of a young child when she met Dorado for a job interview, spoke of anxiety attacks and shame.

“You are a manipulator and you are a coward,” she said.

But one of the women said she had not been victimized and said she had been drinking. “Being raped never crossed my mind,” she said.

The woman, who later helped bail Dorado out of jail, was with Dorado on the day of his arrest. She said she spoke to authorities at that time, but said they took her initial statements out of context.

“I don’t believe Mr. Dorado should have to serve time in jail for a crime he did not commit against me,” she said.

Though she denied she had been assaulted, she was included in the eight women Dorado was accused of assaulting.

Rogers, who presided over the trial, said he is “satisfied that the jury got it right” in finding Dorado guilty of assaulting the woman who said she had not been victimized. The judge pointed to her initial statement to police that she had woken up in bed disoriented and had vomited.

After a two-week trial last fall, jurors deliberated for nearly a week before finding Dorado guilty of 20 counts linked to four women.

The jury cleared him of assault charges linked to a fifth woman. The panel deadlocked on charges regarding the three remaining women.

On Nov. 17, the judge dismissed those remaining charges but left open the door for prosecutors to refile them.

Coto said any decision to refile is on hold pending the outcome of Dorado’s appeal of his conviction. ◆