A six-person jury found Lenny Friou guilty in July of sexual battery with a deadly weapon or physical force in a 1998 rape in suburban West Palm Beach.
WEST PALM BEACH - 7,807 days.
That’s how long a woman waited to address her rapist.
7,807 days to no longer be a victim, the woman told Circuit Judge Rosemarie Scher on Thursday afternoon.
7,807 days she’s waited for justice, she said.
“I always hoped this moment would come,” the woman read from a written statement. “After today, I will no longer be a victim. I am a survivor.”
After a six-person jury found Lenny Friou guilty last month of sexual battery with a deadly weapon or physical force, Scher sentenced the 49-year-old on Thursday to 17.5 years in prison. He was given credit for the 224 days he has served in the Palm Beach County Jail and designated as a sexual predator.
Friou was convicted July 15 in the 1998 rape of the woman, then 18, in suburban West Palm Beach while he passed through town while working as a truck driver. The Palm Beach Post is not naming the woman due to the nature of the crime.
The woman, who spoke before Friou was sentenced, said even though she was brutally assaulted 21 years ago, she still remembers everything that happened: his hands around her throat, the fear she felt that lingers today, how she pleaded for her life each time he threatened to kill her out in a field near Military Trail and Okeechobee Boulevard.
She said while Friou had been out for 20 years living his life, she had been living in her own prison.
“I cannot count the hours of sleep I have lost, the tears I have cried or the times I’ve looked over my shoulder,” she said. “Having to tell my daughters what happened to me, that was the hardest part of all of this.”
Friou's arrest and eventual conviction is connected to a $1 million project started in 2015 by the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office to clear a backlog of about 1,500 rape-evidence kits waiting to be analyzed. When Friou was arrested, he was at least the fifth person arrested in connection to PBSO's effort.
Though the woman continues to work through the trauma of the assault, she said she had always hoped for this moment in court to come. She told the judge when a detective knocked on her door last year, two decades after she was raped, she knew she had to pursue charges in the case.
“I prayed for the moment to talk on behalf of myself and for others,” she said. “I want to help other women find their voice and stand up to their attackers.”
Friou, who also spoke before his sentencing, told the judge he had a hard life and had recently found out he had a daughter. He spoke of a childhood filled with physical and sexual abuse, his own abuse of drugs and his time in and out of jail. He said he’s a changed man from who he was two decades ago. He again denied raping the woman when she was a teen.
“All the things I’ve done wrong in the past, I’m not the same person,” Friou told the judge.
Assistant Public Defender Harris Printz asked the judge not to go outside the sentencing guidelines of 10.5 to 17.5 years for Friou. He said Friou is a man with several severe health issues and he may not live long enough to even see the end of his sentence within those guidelines.
“His motivation is to go forward,” Printz said. “He has something to look forward to: His daughter.”
Assistant State Attorney Jo Wilensky asked the judge to depart the guidelines, and instead give Friou 25 years due to the violent nature of his crime: dragging the woman through the field, raping her and threatening to kill her. She said even if he is a changed man now, that doesn’t change what happened.
“There is no other word for this but violent,“ Wilensky said.