updated: 8/14/2017 7:36 PM
Barbara Vitello

Pablo Herrera

A Rolling Meadows man convicted in June of sexually abusing a teenage girl with special needs was sentenced Monday to a total of 20 years in prison and lifetime registration as a sex offender.

Describing Pablo Herrera as a "cold, calculating sexual predator," Cook County Judge Marc Martin found the 37-year-old inflicted serious and lasting harm on the victim, who prosecutors say functions at a third- or fourth-grade level.

Herrera sexually assaulted the girl between October 2013 and October 2014, when the girl -- then about 15 years old -- and her mother rented a room in Herrera's home. The teen testified Herrera sexually assaulted her twice and attempted to assault her a third time on nights when her mother was at work. The girl, now 18, testified Herrera threatened to throw them out if she reported the abuse.

Explaining that the teen has problems estimating time, Assistant State's Attorney Jaclyn Lantz put the number of assaults at eight to 10.

"He took advantage of her innocence and childlike demeanor" without expressing any remorse, she said.

Lantz asked the sentences be served consecutively to protect the public and serve as a deterrent for other people in positions of trust contemplating similar crimes.

Martin sentenced Herrera to seven years on each of two counts, the maximum. On the third count, Martin sentenced him to six years. Martin ordered the sentences be served consecutively.

Herrera, who received credit for 497 days in custody, must complete at least 50 percent of his sentence before he is eligible for parole.

Cook County Assistant Public Defender Rachel Baker requested probation and described her client as a "loving and responsible family member" who has no criminal background and no record of violence.

"There is no indication the public would be at risk from Mr. Herrera," Baker said.

Martin disagreed.

"He has no criminal record to consider, but you can't conclude he's led a law-abiding life," Martin said, referencing Herrera's status as an immigrant living in the U.S. illegally. "Every day he lived here, he did so illegally. That is not law-abiding conduct."

Speaking on his own behalf, Herrera proclaimed his innocence and insisted he treated the girl like family.

"I'm accused of many things that are unjust," he said.

Martin was not swayed.

"The public needs protection from Mr. Herrera," Martin said. "He preyed upon a person who, through no fault of her own, was unable to protect herself."