Harvard man sentenced to 24 years in prison for sexual assault, abuse of second child

With credit for time served and under truth-in-sentencing guidelines, he could be released in 14 1/2 years

Inset of J. Santos Nova-Rivera in front of Northwest Herald file of the McHenry County courthouse.

Before being sentenced Wednesday to 24 years in prison, a Harvard man again said his two victims, who he has been convicted of sexually abusing and assaulting, lied.

Under the state’s truth-in-sentencing guidelines and with credit for time served in the McHenry County jail since his arrest in January 2020, J. Santos Nova-Rivera, 37, will likely serve about 14 1/2 years in prison on his second conviction this year, McHenry County Judge Michael Coppedge said.

In September, Coppedge found Nova-Rivera guilty on two counts of criminal sexual assault, Class 1 felonies, and two counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse, Class 2 felonies.

Coppedge had already found the former landscaper guilty in April of two counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse against a child younger than 13 in a case involving a different child. He was subsequently sentenced to five years in prison. He remained in the county jail until his current case was adjudicated.

The sentence for that April conviction is considered served with credit for time spent in the county jail. He also has 89 days of credit to put toward his sentence handed down Wednesday on the second conviction, Coppedge said.

Other sentencing requirements include Nova-Rivera registering as a sex offender for life; medical testing for sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV; fines of $1,756.95; and three years of mandatory supervised release. He could also be evaluated to determine whether he is a sexually violent offender before being released from prison, which could result in him remaining in custody, Coppedge said.

In each case, Nova-Rivera chose to have his case heard before the judge rather than before a jury. Each case involved similar details of how Nova-Rivera abused each child.

Before learning his sentence Wednesday, Nova-Rivera, as he did when sentenced in his previous case involving a different child, said his accusers are lying.

“I want to be with my family, with my daughters,” he said through a Spanish interpreter as his common law wife and two daughters sat behind him in the courtroom. “This has destroyed not only my life but my family’s as well. I want to be with them to provide for them so they can study and get ahead ... Not only have I been wronged, but they have as well because of the lies (the victims) told.”

In handing down his sentence, Coppedge spoke of the 14 letters he received in support of Nova-Rivera but also noted his past criminal history and conviction. Coppedge said no longer are the actions he is accused of in these cases alleged.

His actions caused “emotional harm” to his victims, and a sentence is required to deter others from committing the same crimes, Coppedge said.

He also took issue with Nova-Rivera again not taking responsibility for the crimes he is now convicted of, saying Nova-Rivera has made no expression of “contrition or an apology.”

“A man makes peace with his family in his own way,” Coppedge said. “Maybe it is in denial. ... The cloak of alleged victims no longer applies. They are real victims. (Nova-Rivera) said they destroyed his life and he and his family have been wronged. ... He continues to assert that he and his family are the victims.”