Mario Montoya, 24, pleaded guilty, Friday, to the charge of murder in the second degree for the shooting death of Jericole Coleman, 21, that occurred on Aug. 20, 2011. Montoya also pleaded guilty to the charges of tampering with evidence and felon in possession of a firearm.
Assistant District Attorney John Phinizy said the DA made a recommendation for the maximum sentence for each one of the charges, with a one-year enhancement as a habitual offender and an additional one-year firearms enhancement on the murder charge, for a total of 23.5 years.
Upon questioning, Montoya admitted to the court that he had a previous felony conviction for shooting at an occupied dwelling in April 2008.
Coleman acted as a witness for the State in the latter case. Montoya pleaded no contest to the charges then and was sentenced to 1.5 years on Jan. 9, 2009.
Montoya was released in August 2010. Nearly a year after his release, he reportedly invited Coleman to his residence in the 800 block of East Albuquerque Street, where Montoya shot Coleman. The victim was taken to Eastern New Mexico Medical Center and died of his injuries.
Before he was sentenced, Montoya expressed remorse for his actions and said that he hoped the victim’s family would find it their hearts to forgive him.
The victim’s family did not appear during the sentencing. Instead they sent a letter to 5th District Court Judge Freddie Romero with their statement.
Montoya’s mother was given the opportunity to speak for her son, saying he was not a bad person, but had made some bad choices.
Romero commented before he passed sentence that no sentence can offer solace to the victim’s family. He told Montoya, “It is painful for both families, the victim’s and your own.”
Romero also responded to Montoya’s statement that he was influenced by his use of drugs and a life on the streets. “You state we don’t understand the streets, but we see it and hear it in this courtroom every day.”
Montoya was sentenced to the maximum for second-degree murder, 15 years, followed by two years of parole, with a one-year enhancement as a habitual offender and a one-year firearms enhancement. In addition, he received three years on the charges of tampering with evidence, with a one-year enhancement as a habitual offender. As a felon in possession of a firearm, Montoya received the full-sentence of 18 months, with the one year habitual-offender enhancement.
Romero ruled the terms of the three sentences would be served consecutively, or 23.5 years followed by two years of parole. He specified that on the charges of second-degree murder, the “defendant’s meritorious deduction” would not exceed four days per month.
When he spoke to Montoya, Romero took a hard-line stance against crime. “This cycle of violence and retribution in this city has got to stop. There is no place in this community for violence.”
After the hearing, Phinizy said, “I feel it’s a good resolution of the case. … When you look at the maximum sentence for first-degree murder, which is 30 years, the defendant received 23.5 years, which is a good percentage of that time.”
Attorney for the defense, Anna Marie Bell, told the Daily Record, “Since he has been in jail, he has changed. He’s started reading the Bible. The victim’s family have offered some grace and mercy for my client, and he’s ready to accept responsibility for his actions.”