Man who sicced his dog on SO deputies changes plea

WINNEMUCCA — The man who sicced a dog on Humboldt Count Sheriff’s Office deputies who were trying to arrest him has taken the deal offered by the state.

Gary Robinson, 71,  was in 6th Judicial District Court on Tuesday (Oct. 25) for a change of plea hearing.  He pleaded guilty to battery with a deadly weapon, assault with a deadly weapon, and being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm – all category B felonies.

The incident goes back to June 17 when deputies were called to the Robinson house on the report of a domestic battery in progress.

When deputies attempted to arrest Robinson, he called out to his grandson’s dog to “get ‘em boy”.

The dog, described as a pit bull, charged deputies and actually attacked Sgt. Lee Dove, whose leg was injured in the attack.  Deputy Lincoln Fay shot the dog.

A sentencing hearing was set for 2:30 p.m. December 12.

Robinson remains in custody at the Humboldt County Detention Center on $165,500 bail.

Andrews sentenced for aiding/abetting in 2006 murder

LOVELOCK — Charged with aiding and abetting another man in a 2006 murder, Nick Andrews, of Winnemucca, was sentenced on Thursday (Oct. 20) for voluntary manslaughter with use of a deadly weapon.

Judge Michael Montero, of the 6th Judicial District Court, sentenced the defendant to two consecutive terms of 2-5 years in prison with 311 days credit for time served.

Andrews previously pleaded guilty, via an Alford plea, to the charges.  An Alford plea allows the defendant to maintain his or her innocence while acknowledging if the case proceeded to trial they might be convicted of a greater offense.

Andrews was originally charged with felony (first-degree) murder and felony burglary in connection to the murder.

A Pershing County jury convicted Andrews in 2007 of felony burglary but failed to reach a consensus on the murder charge.

The voluntary manslaughter charge was the result of a plea agreement between the defense and the Pershing County DA’s Office.

CASE HISTORY:  The victim, George Moritz, was camping with friends at Sonoma Canyon in Pershing County the night of his murder.  Matt Hutchinson and Nick Andrews drove to the campsite and stood outside the tent challenging Moritz to fight.

When Moritz didn’t come out, Hutchinson and Andrews went in.  According to the testimony of eyewitnesses, Hutchinson first beat Moritz then shot him in the head at close range with a revolver.

The gun used in the murder belonged to Nick Andrews, who loaned the gun to Hutchinson and showed him how to use it, according to testimony.  It should be noted Andrews denied knowing Hutchinson would use it to shoot Moritz.  Andrews thought they were just going to have a physical altercation.

After the murder, Hutchinson and Andrews went to the home of Andrews’ mother and stepfather.  The two men buried their bloody clothes, shoes, and the gun in the backyard.

Both were arrested the next morning after being identified by eyewitnesses.

The motive for the murder was jealousy.  Hutchinson apparently believed Moritz wanted to rekindle the relationship he previously had with a girl, who was at that time dating Hutchinson.

If true, Hutchinson was misinformed.  Moritz had a new girlfriend and the two were expecting a baby.

VICTIM IMPACT STATEMENT:  Addressing the court and seeking justice for her son was the victim’s mother, Susan Ramirez.

She told the court, “George was a good boy.  He didn’t deserve what he got.  There’s nobody that deserves what he got that night – or any night.”

She described her son as a young man who was kind and thoughtful of the feelings of others.  He was someone who befriended the kids who were bullied or friendless.

He was the first person in his family to graduate from high school, and he persevered even when the schoolwork became challenging. After graduating he took a job at an area mine.

Ramirez said with his first paycheck George treated his friends to a nice dinner.

She noted Andrews looked as though he had matured over the last five years.  She acknowledged she received a letter of remorse from Andrews.

She commented on her Christian beliefs and said, “I believe very deep.  It’s a big issue with me.  If you’re not able to forgive, how can you expect the Lord to forgive you?  I’ve got it bad.  I think I should forgive you for everything, but I can’t. I try and try and try.  All I want is my son.”
Ramirez lamented that George’s son would never know his father.  She reminded Andrews that he would get to see his children grow up, that his mother would get to be with him eventually, but she would never see her son again.

WITNESS TESTIMONY:  The defense, represented by Public Defender Steve Cochran and Reno attorney Marc Picker, called Jeff Smith to the stand.

Smith was on the same incarceration block as Hutchinson in 2006.  He quoted Hutchinson as saying he wanted to go back after the murder and kill the eyewitnesses, but Andrews talked him out of it.

Called to the stand to testify on behalf of the prosecution was Detective Rick Brown of the Department of Public Safety – Investigation Division. Brown was the lead detective on the case.

Under questioning, Brown revisited the issue of the encounter between Winnemucca Police Department officers, Hutchinson and Andrews just hours before the murder.

The WPD was investigating a drive-by shooting and stopped a vehicle that matched the description of the one used in the drive-by, right down to the burned-out taillight. The car was being driven by Hutchinson and his close friend Andrews was in the passenger seat.

Andrews admitted to officers he had a gun.

An officer on scene sniffed the gun and determined it had probably not been fired recently.  The officer was identified as a firearms expert and the range master at the time.

Hutchinson and Andrews were released – with the firearm.  They drove from that scene to Sonoma Canyon to find George Moritz.

From the stand Brown was incredulous that someone would sniff the gun to determine if it had been fired recently.  A range master himself, Brown noted the sniff test was not standard among range masters to determine if a gun had been fired recently.

He was asked if there was anyway the officer could be correct, but Brown replied, “I don’t think so.”

Andrews later pled no contest for the drive-by.  That shooting was also the result of a dispute over a girl.

Also testifying were two of the juvenile eyewitnesses in the tent that night: Sean Callahan and Lacy Callahan.

Both witnesses put Andrews in the tent with Matt Hutchinson during the beating and shooting.

Both quoted Andrews’ response to the murder of George Moritz, “Dude, you just shot him.”

THE SENTENCING:  The negotiated settlement between the defense and prosecution recommended a 4-10 year sentence in prison for the voluntary manslaughter.

However, the amount of time he would serve for the deadly weapon enhancement and the time served would be up to Judge Montero.

Cochran asked that his client be given the full 2000+ days he had served since his 2006 arrest.

Pershing County Deputy DA Bryce Shields countered the defendant only had 311 days credit for time served.  While it was true he had been in custody since 2006, much of the credit for time served went to the other three felonies he was convicted of in that same time period.

Judge Montero agreed.

Andrews did not address the court. He did, however, write a personal letter to Susan Ramirez in which he expressed his remorse.

Sharp gets the max for high-speed pursuit

WINNEMUCCA —The man accused of leading law enforcement on a high-speed pursuit from Grass Valley to downtown was sentenced on Monday (Oct. 10) in 6th Judicial District Court.

Mark Tucker Sharp, 24, was given the maximum sentence of 28-72 months in prison on the charge of felony eluding police in a manner posing danger, a category B felony.  He had no credit for time served.

Louie Landa  (shown above right), formerly with the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office, told the court incidents began on April 2 when he observed Sharp driving in the subdivision near the airport and attempted to pull him over.

At that time, Sharp had a felony arrest warrant charging arson.

Sharp sped away from the potential traffic stop – at speeds sometimes reaching 100 mph.

Landa discontinued the pursuit at the city limits for fear a member of the public could be injured.

Sharp knew there was a warrant for his arrest because, he said,  Sheriff Ed Kilgore and another man went to his father’s house looking for him.  Deputy Kathy Green went to the workplace of a friend of Sharp’s and left her number so he could call and make arrangements to turn himself in.

However, Sharp said he was advised by his father to be careful because the cops were going to kill him – and that’s why he fled.

He reminded the court the person who shot and killed his younger brother “basically walked”.

He also pointed out he could have taken any number of routes when he fled, but he fled to town and went to the courthouse, but there were no other cops at the courthouse.

So, he went to the house of Sgt. Mike Smock, of the HCSO, because he thought “they’d be crazy to shoot me in front of Smock.”

Sharp ditched his car in front of Smock’s house. He was in Reno the next day.  His older brother learned where he was and called law enforcement, who picked the younger Sharp up without incident.

Sharp apologized to Officer Jeff Lynn, of the Winnemucca Police Department, who was off duty during the pursuit, on his motorcycle, and who had a very close encounter with the speeding vehicle driven by Sharp.

Sharp said Lynn was one of the few cops in town who always gave him a fair shake.  He added he previously apologized to Lynn and his wife for ever putting him in any danger.

Sharp’s attorney, Public Defender Matt Stermitz, asked for the minimum sentence of 19-48 months in prison. He disputed seeing anything in the video of the pursuit, taken from Landa’s dashcam, that caused him to believe the pursuit put anyone in danger.

Deputy DA Roger Whomes asked for the maximum sentence.

He called Sharp’s fear of being shot by the police a fabrication and an outlandish story.  He said, “(Sharp) didn’t want to stop because he didn’t want to go to jail.”

Referencing Sharp’s criminal history, which included a previous prison term for drug trafficking, he described Sharp as someone who fails to conform to social norms, who’s aggressive, has a reckless disregard for the safety of himself and others, who doesn’t work, and who rationalizes everything he does.

Whomes said he did sympathize with the defendant because he probably had a rough upbringing and because he had lingering issues over the murder of his younger brother.

Whomes went on to say while he had sympathy for the defendant, the community needed to be protected from Sharp.  And, to a certain extent, Sharp needed to be protected from himself.

He said, “When Mr. Sharp is incarcerated he can’t get hurt and can’t do these things that are extremely dangerous to himself and others.”

He concluded by expressing his hope the defendant received help for drug addiction and mental health issues while incarcerated.

Sharp remains in custody at the Humboldt County Detention Center pending another sentencing on charges of drug trafficking and being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm.

Andrews sentencing continued – again

LOVELOCK — The case involving Nick Andrews, 23, of Winnemucca, remains unresolved as the sentencing hearing on Tuesday (Sept. 20) did little to move the matter forward.

Andrews has been in custody since his May 2006 arrest for aiding abetting in the shooting death of a local man at Sonoma Canyon.

This was the second time a sentencing hearing was scheduled.  The first was April 5, but the process became bogged down over an evidence dispute, which was ultimately resolved by the Nevada Supreme Court.

On Tuesday, behind-the-scenes discussions by the attorneys delayed the start of the hearing for 90 minutes, witness testimony was lengthy, and the amount of time served was in dispute. Judge Michael Montero, of the 6thJudicial District Court, finally called it a day and ordered an all-day hearing for October 20 to resolve the case.

Judge Montero ordered both sides to submit blind briefs on the issue of time served. A blind brief allows each side to argue their points without the possibility of responding to the other side.

The issue of time served was complicated. Although he has been in custody since 2006, Andrews was previously convicted of felony burglary (for actions he took during the 2006 shooting of Moritz) and was also convicted of two felonies in Humboldt County (for two drive-by shootings that occurred before the Moritz murder).

Although originally charged with first-degree murder, Andrews did not pull the trigger of the gun that killed George Moritz, then 19 years old.  Instead, Andrews was charged with aiding and abetting Matt Hutchinson, then 18 years old, who pled guilty to first-degree murder for the shooting death of Moritz. Hutchinson is serving life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Andrews ultimately pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter pursuant to North Carolina v Alford, which allows defendants to plead guilty to a charge while maintaining his or her innocence in order to avoid being convicted of a greater offense.  However, an Alford plea is treated as a guilty plea by the court.

A plea agreement with the state set the possible prison sentence at 4-10 years on the  manslaughter charge.  The deadly weapon enhancement represents another possible 1-10 years in prison and must be served consecutively.  Probation is an option for the court to consider depending on several factors – including the defendant’s criminal history.

The defense was expected to file a motion for another reduction in bail.

Andrews remains in custody at the Pershing County Jail on $100,000 bail.

Robinson case goes to district court

WINNEMUCCA — The man who allegedly incited a dog to attack Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office deputies who were trying to arrest him has reached a negotiated settlement with the state.

Gary Robinson, 72, walked into Union Township Justice Court on Tuesday (July 12) with 14 counts – all but one of them felony charges.

Robinson is being represented in court by Humboldt County Public Defender Matt Stermitz, who negotiated a settlement with the Humboldt County DA’s Office that allowed his client to walk out of justice court with three felonies and a misdemeanor.

Robinson waived his right to a preliminary hearing.  The case was then transferred to the 6th Judicial District Court where Robinson will be arraigned on charges of battery with a deadly weapon, assault with a deadly weapon, and being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm, all category B felonies.  He will still face a charge of misdemeanor domestic battery in justice court.

The charges of assault and battery stem directly from the allegations Robinson incited a dog to attack deputies.  The multiple charges of resisting arrest and the single charge of gross misdemeanor battery on a peace officer were dropped as part of the proposed negotiated settlement.

** This post contains descriptions of violence and use of strong language and was meant for mature readers.

The following information was obtained from the written reports of HCSO deputies on scene the night Robinson was arrested.  The reports were obtained from the Humboldt County DA’s Office on a NRS Chapter 239 request for public documents.

Events leading to the arrest of Robinson go back to June 17 and a reported domestic battery between Robinson and his wife.

Responding were Sgt. Lee Dove and Deputies Louie Landa, Lincoln Fay, and John Rogers.  Landa was identified in documents as being the lead investigator.

The deputies met with the victim and her grandson on the outskirts of the Robinson property.  All reported the victim had marks on her face consistent with a violent confrontation.  The victim told the deputies Robinson did have firearms in the house.

Rogers stayed with the victim and the juvenile; the other three approached the Robinson house.

Fay reported he stayed with his vehicle, armed with a rifle, to provide “long cover” on the chance Robinson had a gun.

Dove and Landa approached the house and were met at the porch by Robinson.

Landa reported Robinson referred to the “no trespassing” sign at the edge of his property and reportedly said, “Can’t you read the sign?  It says you are trespassing, so get the fuck off my property.”

Robinson allegedly admitted to pushing the victim.

Due to the alleged “self admission”, Sgt. Dove instructed the suspect to turn around and put his hands behind his back – that he was being arrested on suspicion of domestic battery.

Landa reported Robinson took a step back, turned around and said, “Fuck you, motherfuckers” and began to walk away.

Meanwhile, Fay secured the rifle when he saw Robinson was not armed and began to walk towards the group.  As he approached the house, Robinson called to a dog, described as a gray pitbull mix.  Robinson allegedly pointed to Fay and told the dog to “get him”.

Fay reported the dog came running towards him.  He said he pulled his pistol, and targeted the dog, which stopped about 15 feet away.

Robinson said, “Don’t kill my dog” and called the dog off.

Meanwhile, Dove and Landa made an attempt to restrain Robinson to arrest him. At this point Robinson allegedly struck Sgt. Dove in the face.

Dove went tumbling down the porch stairs, but his fall was broken by Fay who put out his arm to keep Dove from hitting the ground.

Landa then tased the suspect, who fell and allegedly hit his face on the porch rail then went tumbling down the porch steps and landed on the dirt.

The deputies moved in to arrest Robinson, Fay reportedly struck him twice on the upper thigh with a police baton in an effort to gain compliance.

At this point Robinson allegedly called to the dog, “Get them.  Get them.”

Landa reported Robinson also said, “Get them boy. Bite this motherfucker. Get them boy.”

The pitbull attacked Sgt. Dove.

Fay reported Dove began screaming in pain.  He looked back and saw the dog was “biting and tearing at (Dove’s) leg.”

Leaving Landa to struggle with the defendant, Fay struck the dog with his baton, he said in his report.

Fay reported, “The dog remained aggressive.  I struck the dog several times as it attempted to bite me.  The dog ran off about ten feet, turned, posted up and began to come for a second attack.”

At this point, Fay drew his pistol and shot the dog.

While Fay was fending off the dog attack, Landa was struggling with Robinson who was on the ground but shoving and kicking.

Landa reported that while he struggled with the suspect, he became aware that Robinson was allegedly attempting to retrieve a large knife from his pocket.

Landa reported he struck Robinson in the upper shoulder and Fay reported he struck Robinson in the face multiple times until they were able to handcuff him.

** Robinson will be arraigned in 6th Judicial District Court at a later date.

DA’s Office drops charges in cracked windshield case

WINNEMUCCA — The Humboldt County DA’s Office dismissed the charges in the cracked windshield case today (Monday, July 11).

The defendant in the case, Jarrett Correa, was released from the Humboldt County Detention Center where he had been held since his March arrest on charges of drug trafficking.

Correa was traveling on Interstate 80 when he was pulled over by the Sgt. Lee Dove, of the HCSO’s Humboldt Interdiction Team, for having a cracked windshield.

Public Defender Matt Stermitz successfully argued on Monday, June 27 to have the evidence in the case suppressed because Nevada doesn’t have a cracked windshield statute.

There’s no statute that uses plain language to tell drivers they are prohibited from driving a vehicle on the roadway if there’s a crack in the windshield, he noted.

Deputy DA Roger Whomes counter-argued NRS 484B.163 (3) requires drivers to have a normal view, which they don’t have when there’s a crack in the windshield.

However, the state did not present any evidence concerning the crack in the windshield. Whether it was large or small, or where it was on the windshield, was not presented to the court.

Judge Michael Montero issued the evidence suppression order on Wednesday, June 29.

He notes, “The fact that there was a crack on Mr. Correa’s windshield, in and of itself, does not satisfy the probable cause standard.  The facts and circumstances, as presented to this court, are not sufficient to warrant a reasonable man to believe Mr. Correa was in violation of NRS 484B.163(3) when he was stopped by Sgt. Dove.”

He continued, “Hence, Sgt. Dove’s traffic stop was unreasonable and in violation of the Fourth Amendment.”

From the Nevada Revised Statutes:

NRS 484B.163 Obstruction of or interference with driver’s view; interference with driver’s control over driving mechanism; vision of driver through required glass equipment; additional penalty for violation committed in work zone.

1.  A person shall not drive a vehicle when it is so loaded, or when there are in the front seat such number of persons, exceeding three, as to obstruct the view of the driver to the front or sides of the vehicle or as to interfere with the driver’s control over the driving mechanism of the vehicle.

2.  A passenger in a vehicle shall not ride in such position as to interfere with the driver’s view ahead or to the sides, or to interfere with the driver’s control over the driving mechanism of the vehicle.

3.  Except as otherwise provided in NRS 484D.440 (window tinting statute) a vehicle must not be operated upon any highway unless the driver’s vision through any required glass equipment is normal.

Evidence suppressed in cracked windshield case

WINNEMUCCA — Public Defender Matt Stermitz successfully argued to have the evidence suppressed in a drug trafficking case where the probable cause for the traffic stop was a cracked windshield.

Judge Michael Montero ruled in the defense’s favor on Monday (June 27) during the pre-trial conference — a mere two weeks before the case was to go before a jury.

The driver of the vehicle, Jarrett P. Correa, of Honolulu, Hawaii, was passing through Humboldt County on Interstate 80 at the time of the stop.

A search of Correa’s vehicle ensued after the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office drug-sniffing K9 Lily alerted on the car. The search allegedly turned up $798 in cash and trafficking levels of methamphetamine.

MOTION TO SUPPRESS: Stermitz previously filed a motion to suppress the evidence.  In court on Monday, he raised many of the same issues that were in the motion.

His primary argument:  Nevada doesn’t have a statute prohibiting people from driving with a cracked windshield.  Further, the sheriff’s office deputy who pulled Correa over couldn’t articulate a specific statute to justify the stop.

The traffic stop was initiated on March 30 of this year by Sgt. Lee Dove who heads up the HCSO – Humboldt Interdiction Team.

During the preliminary hearing, Sgt. Dove was not able to cite a specific statute that prohibits motorists from driving with a cracked windshield; though, he generally thought the statute dealing with safety glazing on vehicle windows prohibited cracked windshields.

Stermitz read the statute on Monday, in its entirety, and there was no language in the safety-glazing statutes that prohibits motorists from driving with a cracked windshield.

He told the court the traffic stop was based on a mistake of law.  Under case law, and Stermitz quoted multiple cases, in instances where officers mistook the law the evidence was ultimately suppressed.

Deputy DA Roger Whomes disagreed there was no cracked windshield statute.  He pointed to the statute that requires the driver’s vision through the glass to be normal (NRS 484B.163(3)), which could be prevented if  the windshield were cracked.

He added mud and snow, anything that prevented the driver from having a normal view through the glass, was prohibited.

But, as Stermitz noted, “a normal view” was never defined by the Nevada Legislature.  If they cared to revisit the statute and define the terminology, fine, but it wouldn’t be proper for the court to do so, he argued.

Additionally, there were separate statutes that prohibited mud and snow – but not a cracked windshield.

He also argued the “normal view” statute was vague because it doesn’t specifically state what behavior was prohibited.  For example, a statute written specifically might read, “A motorist shall not operate a vehicle  that has a cracked windshield on the public roads.”

That kind of language tells a person what behavior is specifically prohibited.

Nevada has no such statute.

Sgt. Dove simply had no probable cause for the traffic stop, Stermitz argued, and therefore the evidence should be suppressed.

Montero agreed. He said in reviewing the case he did not find driving a vehicle with a cracked windshield was a violation of the law.

Despite having the evidence suppressed, the DA’s Office did not immediately move to have the  charges against Correa dismissed.

SPJ spoke with Humboldt County DA Mike Macdonald late in the day, and he indicated they were still reviewing their options.

At the time of this post, Correa remained at the Humboldt County Detention Center on $20,000 bail.

(shown) Public Defender Matt Stermitz is shown leaving the courtroom followed by Jarrett Correa.

DISTRICT COURT: Trial dates set in two of Sharp’s four cases

WINNEMUCCA — Trial dates were set on Monday (June 20) in the 6th Judicial District Court for two of the four pending cases involving local resident Mark Tucker Sharp.

Sharp was in court for arraignment on charges of being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm and trafficking in a controlled substance level I, both category B felonies. He pleaded not guilty to both.

A three-day trial on the drug trafficking allegation was set for Sept. 14.  A three day trial on the firearm allegations was set to begin Sept. 28.

Although the trafficking and firearm allegations stem from the same incident, a Nevada Supreme Court decision prevents the prosecution from trying the charges together due to the negative connotation an ex-felon charge may have on the jury.

Sharp also has an upcoming case where he faces charges of felony eluding/kidnapping, that trial is set to begin on Aug. 2,  and another case in which he is charged with assault with a deadly weapon.

The defendant is being represented on the trafficking/firearm cases by Battle Mountain attorney Ted Herrera.  An effort by Herrera to consolodate the cases, which would have saved taxpayer dollars, was unsuccessful. Deputy DA Roger Whomes did not indicate in court why it was his preference the cases not be consolodated.

Sharp remains in custody at the Humboldt County Detention Center on $100,000 bail.

Hunter sentenced for shooting death of his daughter

WINNEMUCCA — The man convicted of second-degree murder in April for the shooting death of daughter was sentenced on Monday (June 13)  exactly one year to the day he picked up the gun and shot his daughter in the chest – ending her life.

Leo Hunter Jr., 55, was sentenced to serve a minimum of 14 years in prison.  He had exactly 365 days credit for time served.

Lenora Hunter was 29 years old at the time of her death.

CASE HISTORY:  According to trial testimony, Leo and Lenora had a contentious relationship.  He was an alcoholic who spent his evenings drinking.  She was a drug user and her habit included methamphetamine.

Lenora and her two young daughters lived with her parents.  While Leo and Stella Hunter tried to provide a stable environment for their granddaughters, Leo and Lenora fought over the care of the children.

On the night of the shooting, Lenora had a verbal dispute with her father.  She had methamphetamine in her system; his blood alcohol content was an estimated .35 percent.

Following the dispute with her father, Lenora Hunter announced to her mother she was leaving and taking the children.  Concerned for his two granddaughters, Leo Hunter grabbed a firearm from the closet and went to confront his daughter.

No one saw what happened next. Stella Hunter testified she heard the shot then saw her daughter fall.

Leo Hunter said it was never his intention to shoot Lenora; he merely wanted to frighten her into leaving the children rather than exposing them to her dangerous lifestyle.

ALLOCUTION:  Allowed to speak on his own behalf, Leo Hunter stood in court on Monday and remembered when his daughter was born and later when she was a young girl.

He said, “We called her Pumpkin because she was so round.  And she was always smiling.”

Later, Lenora Hunter faced tragic events in her life, including a rape, and turned to drugs.

Her father said, “We didn’t know what to do for her.”

Hoping to get Lenora out of the drug culture of Panama City, Florida, the family moved to Winnemucca about a year prior to her death.

About the night of  the shooting Leo Hunter said, “All I wanted to do was frighten her into considering the consequences of her actions.”

He continued and said he still sees the scene of the shooting in his mind every day:  Lenora, his daughter, gasping for air and his beloved granddaughters screaming for help.

He told the court he failed to help the people he loved and added, “I need them to know I’m very sorry.”

SENTENCING: Leo Hunter was represented in court by Public Defender Matt Stermitz.

Stermitz noted the defendant had no criminal history and retired from military service after more than 20 years.

Stermitz also noted if not for his two granddaughters Leo Hunter would not be in court; the actions he took were an attempt to protect them from their mother’s dangerous lifestyle.

For second-degree murder Stermitz agreed with the recommendation of Parole & Probation of 10-25 years in prison.  On the deadly weapon enhancement, which P&P recommended 4.5 – 12 years, Stermitz asked instead for 1-2 years.

Representing the state was Chief Deputy DA Kevin Pasquale.

Pasquale noted there were more victims than just Lenora Hunter.  He pointed to her children, still little girls, who would grow up without their mother.  He also pointed to Lenora’s mother, Stella, her closest friend.

Pasquale said, “Mr. Hunter had a difference with his daughter. He passed a sentenced on her that evening.  It cost her  — her life.”

He continued, “A life for a life is appropriate.”

He asked the court to impose a life sentence of 25 years in prison, with the possibility of parole after 10 years had been served.  On the deadly weapon enhancement, Pasquale asked the court to stick to the P&P recommendation of  4.5 – 12 years.

Judge Michael Montero sentenced the defendant for second-degree murder  to 25 years in prison with the possibility of parole after 10 years was served; for the deadly weapon enhancement 4.5 – 12 years  to be served consecutively, one right after the other.

The defendant had 365 days credit for time served.

Gutierrez gets lengthy sentenced for drug trafficking

WINNEMUCCA — Whatever the plea negotiations, the ultimate sentence a defendant gets is up to the judge. Lesson learned for Ramiro Gutierrez, whose 4-10 year prison sentence for drug trafficking was more than expected.

As a result of a plea agreement, the defendant pleaded no contest to drug trafficking/methamphetamine level II, a category B felony.  Humboldt County DA Roger Whomes recommended a prison sentence of 3-7 years and defense counsel Robert Hager asked for a minimum of two years.

Gutierrez was in 6th Judicial District Court for sentencing on Tuesday (June 7) where Judge Robert Estes was apparently not in a minimum-sentence mood.

Referencing the defendant’s four children, Estes said, “I’d bet a $1 to a pinch of pig manure that you wouldn’t want someone selling methamphetamine to your children.  That’s what you were doing. You were selling meth to other people’s children.”

For medical reasons Gutierrez was not taken into custody immediately.  He was ordered to report to the Humboldt County Detention Center on July 7 and from there will be transported to prison to begin his sentence.

Gutierrez was arrested in 2009. The trial was delayed over the course of many months as the defense fought a long battle to have the original trial judge removed from the case over allegations of bias.

Hager also alleged Gutierrez was the fall-guy for actions taken by his girlfriend, the mother of his four children.  Hager alleged the girlfriend was actually the person involved in drug trafficking, but she was protected because of her father’s position with law enforcement and the court.

The girlfriend’s name is not being released here because she was not implicated in the drug trafficking.  Instead, she received a lesser charge and was ordered into drug court.

During sentencing, Hager noted the confidential informant working for law enforcement dealt exclusively with the girlfriend; the controlled buys occurred at the girlfriend’s house; when the search warrant was issued the drugs were located at the girlfriend’s house, not the defendant’s; the girlfriend tested positive for drug use, not the defendant.

Yet, it was Gutierrez who was arrested and charged with drug trafficking.

Hager noted people all over the world people are fighting for Democracy.  He commented, “It’s not just to have the right to go in and vote for somebody.  It’s to have a change in society so everybody is treated equally.”

He argued but for the involvement of the girlfriend there would have been no drug sales.

Judge Estes said he wouldn’t second-guess the DA’s Office decision in regards the charges, because there might be facts of the case unknown to him, but if he was DA there might have been someone else on the docket for sentencing along with Gutierrez.

Hager painted a picture of Gutierrez as a good employee and a good father who took financial responsibility for his children.

Hager commented, “From my own experience, and I’ve handled hundreds of drug cases, a one-ounce dealer, whether it’s ounce dealers of methamphetamine or ounce dealers of cocaine, they don’t have full-time jobs.  They make enough money based upon their income that they’re getting from drug sales.”

Yet, Gutierrez worked full-time and was thought of as a good employee, Hager said.

In asking for a lesser sentence of two years, Hager concluded it would be appropriate to look at the two parties involved in the case; to consider what happened to one and what happened to the other.

But Judge Estes was not prepared to let Gutierrez off the hook.  He noted at the time Gutierrez was arrested, the defendant had more than $6,000 in cash.

Estes said, “No one, except maybe a baccarat dealer at Caesar’s Palace, walks around with that kind of money in the trunk of their car.”

In addition to the money, at the time of the arrest authorities also seized drugs, smoking pipes and scales.

Estes sentenced Gutierrez to the 4-10 year prison sentence, he was ordered to pay all the usual fines, and was also sentenced to pay $500 in restitution for the money used by law enforcement in the controlled buys during the investigation.