Man Faces Prison in Rape

By Matthew Kreamer
The Fresno Bee

A Fresno man will serve 32 years to life in prison after pleading guilty Tuesday to raping a Fresno woman in her Fig Garden-area home.

Michael Lynn Smith, 49, took the plea deal in Fresno County Superior Court rather than face a trial, which was expected to begin this week.

He’ll be sentenced next week to 32 years to life in prison under the “Three Strikes and You’re Out” law.

In exchange for pleading guilty to forcible rape and admitting prior burglary convictions and prison terms, current burglary and other charges were dropped.

Prosecutor John Vogt said the deal was offered so the victim wouldn’t have to testify in court. “That is the sole motivation in this case, to spare the victim any further ordeal.”

Smith won’t be eligible for parole until he’s 74 years old.

In November 2000, Smith broke into the victim’s North Harrison Avenue home through a pet door and raped her, Fresno County Sheriff’s Department investigators said. Then Smith searched the woman’s house and tied her up before leaving in her car.

Smith has previous burglary convictions in Orange County but no convictions for rape or other sexual assaults.

Vogt said he has previously been arrested on suspicion of sexual assaults, but those charges had been dropped in Orange County in exchange for guilty pleas to burglary charges.

As part of Tuesday’s plea agreement, Smith will be required to register as a sex offender. He also waived his right to appeal the case and the sentence.

Had Smith gone to trial, he could have been sentenced to multiple life sentences, Vogt said.