Mar 21, 2013 12:44 AM by Jacqui Heinrich, firstname.lastname@example.org
It was a deadly crash that shook the Pueblo community; now, a plea deal in the case. Gilbert Sanchez reached a plea agreement with the District Attorney Wednesday night. Last April he was speeding and driving drunk when he ran a red light and t-boned another vehicle, killing three teenage girls from Alamosa and permanently injuring two other teenagers riding in the bed of his pickup truck.
It's sometimes perceived that plea agreements best serve the interest of the defendant, but in this case District Attorney Jeff Chostner says it was the best option for the two child victims left with permanent injuries from the accident, as well as the families of the three young girls who were killed. "Our victim witness unit and our prosecutors have collectively probably put 4, 5, 600 hours into this case in talking to all the families, all the victims," District Attorney Jeff Chostner told News 5's Jacqui Heinrich in an interview. All those hours reliving that fateful April night was enough; Chostner says the victims and their families didn't want to go through it again in front of a jury. They're already living with the pain of losing three children, and the two teens who survived the crash will forever struggle with permanent injuries. They settled on a plea agreement: 68 years behind bars for Sanchez out of a maximum 100 years.
"I personally met with the families, went over to Alamosa and met with the families there, so it's a difficult decision for them but it's one with which they are content," Chostner said.
District Attorney Chostner also said the deal doesn't dilute the message that vehicular homicides are taken seriously by the courts. "This case has the potential to impose a sentence that we have not seen in decades in Colorado. This is one of the strongest sentences ever given in the state of Colorado. I think any plea deal-- especially one of this magnitude-- has to be gone over with a fine toothed comb, and I did exactly that in this case."
The District Attorney also said had the case gone to trial and a plea agreement not been reached, it's likely Sanchez would have been sentenced to 60 or 70 years out of the maximum 100. The last case this severe resulted in a sentence of 48 years, making Sanchez's potential 68 years the strongest sentencing the state of Colorado has imposed in decades. Sentencing is scheduled for May 17th.