A sexual predator is heading to prison for up to 28 years. His victims and their families, meanwhile, say they’ll carry the rage and pain he has inflicted on them for the rest of their lives.
Tommy Lee Giles Jr., 45, of Berkeley, was sentenced Monday for sexual assault on four victims in Berkeley, Albany and Oakland.
One of his victims, identified in court as Jane Doe 1, was two days shy of her 10th birthday when Giles assaulted her in 2022. She had been walking to school.
“I could not understand how someone could assault an elementary student at 8 o’clock in the morning. The amount of premeditation and perversion that required was terrifying,” Doe 1’s parents read at Giles’s sentencing hearing Monday. “I was a shell of myself for weeks as I tried to comprehend how something so horrific could have happened to my amazing, beautiful, innocent child.”
In a declaration of probable cause against Giles, police reported that a 9-year-old victim “asked (Giles) why he was doing this” as he assaulted her, “and he answered by asking her if it felt good.” He later admitted to police that he’d assaulted the child “due to ‘perversion,’” according to the report.
“I felt like buying a gun. I felt and still feel rage about this. I spent nights worrying about who might be the next victim,” the parents’ statement continued. “Our daughter was one of two school-aged kids that Mr. Giles assaulted. Those girls and our community will be scarred by what happened for years to come.”
A woman who confronted Giles, Jeannie Witkin of Berkeley, agreed to speak with Berkeleyside under her real name. Giles was charged with misdemeanor sexual battery against Witkin, but that charge was part of the criminal complaints dismissed as part of his plea agreement. [In most cases, Berkeleyside’s policy is not to identify sexual assault victims. Witkin reached out to Berkeleyside for this story.]
Witkin said she was “furious” when she encountered Giles, and it spurred her into action. She felt validated when she learned she hadn’t been the only victim.
“I had no idea at the time that he was a serial offender and he had gone after kids. I didn’t know what he had done. I would’ve been more scared, but I wasn’t scared in that moment — I was absolutely furious.”
That furious response — chasing Giles and snapping a photograph of him, later posting it on NextDoor — helped police catch Giles. A neighbor recognized Giles from a photograph and told police in Berkeley, and later Giles was identified in a photo lineup.
All told, Giles was charged in assaults on five victims — two minors and three adults — in Albany, Berkeley and Oakland, all from the spring of 2022. He was charged with eight felonies and two misdemeanors. He was accused of several special allegations, some related to how vulnerable some victims were, others to the fact he allegedly used a knife, and more to the suspicion he’d kidnapped several victims to assault them.
Giles ultimately pleaded no contest to four felonies — a lewd act upon a child, a forcible lewd act upon a child and two counts of forcible oral copulation. Part of the plea agreement included a finding that in all four crimes, the victims were particularly vulnerable, a finding that can lengthen prison terms.
At Giles’s sentencing hearing, Berkeley police Detective Samantha Martinez read a statement on behalf of another victim, Jane Doe 2.
“The part of me that is angry, that perhaps always will be angry, wants to know that I get to live a full life, while the man who violated me will only be free of the stigma of his crime in death,” Martinez read. “But I leave my house each day with pepper spray tucked into my purse, another canister in my pocket. Every passing comment from a man is received as a threat. My doors are locked and dead-bolted.”
Doe 2 wrote that the memory of Giles’s crime against her will stay with her forever.
“Maybe I will dream of it less, and maybe catcalls will stop rendering in me the deepest dread,” Martinez read. “What was done to me on a drizzly April day the year I was 23 will always be a part of me.”
Judge Kimberly Colwell sentenced Giles to 28 years in prison, with credit for 408 days served, and ordered him to pay $10,000 to a victims’ restitution fund and other fines. She also ordered Giles to stay at least 100 yards away from his victims and register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
Giles assented when Colwell handed down the sentence, the only time he appeared to speak during the hearing.
Witkin told Berkeleyside she’s more worried about her children and teenage daughters than she used to be, and checks in on them often, but she’s glad she fought back and was empowered to speak out about the assault on social media last year.
“Women feel bad, and they feel ashamed and they don’t speak out and they go home and they hide under the covers — which, I understand why they do that — and then seven more people get assaulted because nobody felt like they could speak out,” Witkin said.
“Also, if I could say one thing to women, it would be this: We are entitled to walk down the street. We are entitled to having our bodily integrity respected. Anytime anyone touches us without our permission, if we can respond from a deep belief in our own power and channel our anger into action, we will be safer,” Witkin said. “If our fear and a misplaced sense of shame keep us silent, we cannot heal and we cannot hold our perpetrators accountable for their actions.”
Staff reporter Supriya Yelimeli contributed to this story.