Acoma man sentenced for absconding prior to fatal crash

• Judge Amanda Sanchez Villalobos sentenced Anthony Faustine on a probation violation she previously released him on
• Faustine allegedly fled from police while drunk and crashed, killing Timothy Chino, two days after Villalobos released him on an absconder warrant

See the case write-up or previous stories

GRANTS, N.M. — An Acoma man will serve the remainder of his state sentence for drunk driving while he is held pending trial on a federal charge of second-degree murder that happened two days after a state judge released him on an absconder warrant.

Anthony Faustine

District Judge Amanda Sanchez Villalobos sentenced Anthony Faustine, 40, on Sept. 1, to 417 days after he admitted to violating his probation in the his 2016 DWI 3rd offense and fleeing an officer case. She also ordered him discharged from probation.

Faustine is in federal custody after a federal grand jury indicted him on June 8, 2020, on charges of second-degree murder and assault resulting in serious bodily injury for the crash on April 22, 2020 that, according to tribal court documents, allegedly killed Timothy Chino and severely injured Katrina Juanico.

Villalobos released Faustine, being held on an absconder warrant, on April 20, 2020, two days before he allegedly crashed a car while drunk, killing Chino. He was allegedly fleeing from tribal police officers when he crashed, according to tribal court documents.

He was initially arrested on April 9, 2020 on a bench warrant issued on Dec. 13, 2018, after he failed to appear for a hearing on the absconder allegations already filed against him, as well as a motion to revoke his probation, before Villalobos released him.

On Oct. 7, 2016, Faustine pleaded guilty to aggravated fleeing an officer, DWI third offense and driving on a license revoked for DWI, for an incident on Jan. 14, 2016, according to court documents.

Amanda Sanchez Villalobos

The plea deal, signed by prosecutor Brandon Vigil, gave Faustine a suspended sentence minus the mandatory 97 days he had to serve on the DUI charge. The plea was approved by District Judge Pedro Rael.

The original file in the magistrate case appears has been destroyed.

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Acoma man arraigned for killing man in DWI crash after fleeing police

• Police say Anthony Faustine allegedly drunkenly crashed his car after fleeing from police on a dirt road, killing passenger Timothy Chino, on April 22, 2020
• Judge Amanda Sanchez Villalobos released Faustine one day prior after arraigning him on a bench warrant after he didn’t appear at an arraignment on a probation violation from 2018

• Faustine’s original probation violation was for allegedly absconding from probation after pleading guilty to DUI and aggravated fleeing an officer

Read the full case write-up

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A 40-year-old Acoma Pueblo man is being held without bail after being arraigned Monday in federal court on a charge of second-degree murder for the death of a man following an alleged drunk driving crash following a police pursuit on April 22, 2020, one day after he was released from jail on a probation violation on a prior charge of aggravated fleeing an officer and drunk driving.

Anthony Faustine

A federal grand jury indicted Anthony Faustine on June 8, 2020, on charges of second-degree murder and assault resulting in serious bodily injury for the crash that, according to tribal court documents, allegedly killed Timothy Chino and severely injured Katrina Juanico.

Federal Magistrate Judge Steven Yarbrough ordered Faustine held without bail, and remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshal’s Service, during his virtual arraignment, Monday (8/31/2020). Faustine pleaded not guilty and waived a detention hearing.

According to federal court filings, Faustine was being held in the Cibola County Detention Center in Grants prior to his initial appearance on Aug. 27, 2020.

Faustine appears to have been initially jailed, following the crash, after Laguna Pueblo tribal police officer Brandon Mariano charged him in Laguna Pueblo tribal court with homicide by vehicle, reckless driving, aggravated DUI and battery following the April 22, 2020 crash.

Villalobos ordered Faustine released on April 20 after he was arrested earlier that month on a December 2018 bench warrant for his failure to appear at an arraignment for a prior alleged probation violation.

The crash

Laguna tribal police officer Brandon Mariano wrote in a criminal complaint, filed in Laguna Tribal Court, that a call about a red Suzuki first came to dispatchers at 3:23 p.m., April 22, 2020.

An unknown woman told them the car was swerving on eastbound Interstate-40 and almost hit her car, just before it left on Exit 104, toward State Road 124. Officers were sent to look for the car, he wrote.

Laguna Highway Safety Officer Keith Riley told Mariano that while searching, he talked to a construction foreman on Rainfall Road, Mariano wrote.

“The foreman told HSO Riley that the vehicle which Officers were looking for passed through their work zone and nearly hit a few of the workers while it was passing through,” Mariano wrote. “HSO Riley was also told the vehicle was traveling on Cottonwood Trail, headed toward the Pueblo of Acoma.”

Riley and Laguna Police Department Officer Roslynn Lente found the red Suzuki near the border of Acoma and Laguna on Cottonwood Trail. Riley pulled in front of the car with his emergency lights, exited and told the driver to get out. The driver, later identified as Faustine, allegedly refused, revved the engine and sped away from Riley, Mariano wrote.

Riley “contacted the hood” as it sped off and Lente was “nearly to the vehicle” when Riley told her to stay in her car, as Faustine allegedly sped by her, Mariano wrote.

As the red Suzuki Sidekick sped away, the officers began to pursue it, then Riley called it off because it was on a dirt road, he wrote.

“HSO Riley then said just as he was finished the vehicle drove around a corner and began to roll,” Mariano wrote.

When the pair arrived at the crash scene, Faustine allegedly ran from the vehicle and Riley chased him on foot and told Lente to tend to the other two people in the car, he wrote.

Riley unholstered his stun gun and told Faustine to stop. Faustine fell to the ground and Riley placed him “restraints.” Faustine smelled of alcohol, had slurred speech, bloodshot and glassy eyes and could not maintain his balance, Mariano wrote.

The crash ejected the front passenger, Timothy Chino, and pinned him under the vehicle. The other passenger, Katrina Juanico, was in the back seat and airlifted from the scene, he wrote.

While one medic, Isaac Herrera, tried to get Faustine’s blood pressure, Faustine allegedly tried to bit him. Faustine was eventually transported by ambulance for his injuries, Mariano wrote.

Mariano wrote he found Bud Light beer cans from the “beginning to the end of the crash,” as well as two bottles of vodka, he wrote.

Probation violations

On April 20, 2020, District Court Judge Amanda Sanchez Villalobos ordered Faustine released from jail after arraigning him on a bench warrant issued on Dec. 13, 2018 after he failed to appear for his arraignment on the original probation violation.

Amanda Sanchez Villalobos

He had been in custody since April 9, 2020, when the Isleta Police Department arrested him on the warrant.

Probation Officer Eric Barela wrote in a probation report dated Oct. 25, 2018 that Faustine was sentenced to three-and-a-half years of supervised probation on Oct. 6, 2016, on the DUI third offense and aggravated fleeing an officer charges.

“Since being sentenced Probationer Faustine has completed sanctions of 3 days and 7 days in custody due to violations of Reporting and Alcohol,” Barela wrote. “Probationer Faustine has shown by calling Cordant and failing to report for UA’s that he understands that he is violating his probation and continues to disreguard (sic) the orders of this court and his orders of probation.”

Barela wrote in the 2018 report that Faustine’s convictions, along with his failure to report and to complete drug and alcohol tests, meant he was a danger to the community.

“Probationer Faustine is now and (sic) ABSCONDER from supervision and has proven that he does not take probation serious and is not a good candidate for supervised probation,” Barela wrote.

Barela wrote he was asking that the prosecutor file a motion to revoke his probation and sentence him to the remainder of his sentence, which would have had him in jail until June 4, 2020.

Prosecutor Sherry Thompson filed a motion to revoke Faustine’s probation on Nov. 15, 2018. She included the original plea deal, signed by prosecutor Brandon Vigil, which gave Faustine a suspended sentence minus the mandatory 97 days he had to serve on the DUI charge. The plea was approved by District Judge Pedro Rael.

When he was supposed to be arraigned on the probation violation charges, he never showed up, leading to the Dec. 13, 2018 bench warrant, eventually served on April 9, 2020, by the Isleta Police Department, according to court records.

After Faustine was arraigned on April 20, 2020, Barela issued a violation report on May 1, 2020, after Faustine failed to report for probation, followed by another on May 5. Sanchez Villalobos issued a bench warrant on May 6. It appears he did not know about the crash until, May 13, when he received a notification of arrest for Faustine. It listed him as in the Laguna jail.

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Anthony Faustine: Timothy Chino — 4-22-2020

Suspect: Anthony Faustine

Victim: Timothy Chino

Non-fatal victim: Katrina Juanico

Charges: Second-degree murder, assault resulting in serious bodily injury

Incident type: DWI crash following a police chase

Date of incident: April 22, 2020

Status: Pending

Investigating Agency: Bureau of Indian Affairs

Prosecutor: Nicholas Marshall

Prosecuting agency: U.S. Attorney’s Office

Location: Cottonwood Trail, near the border of Laguna and Acoma pueblos, Cibola County

Federal magistrate case number: None

Federal district case number: 20-cr-01365

Probation state case number: D-1333-CR-2016-00041

 

Summary

On April 22, 2020, Anthony Faustine, 40, of Acoma, allegedly crashed his car while drunk after fleeing from police. Judge Amanda Sanchez Villalobos released him one day earlier after he was arrested on a failure-to-appear bench warrant issued after he allegedly absconded from probation in 2018. He fled from the crash, leaving a man under his car who died at the scene, according to an investigator’s report. A woman was also severely injured and flown from the scene, according to the report. Laguna Pueblo tribal officers charged him following the crash.

On June 9, a federal grand jury indicted him on charges of second-degree murder and assault and battery resulting in serious bodily harm.

On Aug. 31, a federal magistrate judge ordered he be held without bail pending trial.

The crash

Laguna tribal police officer Brandon Mariano wrote in a criminal complaint, filed in Laguna Tribal Court, that a call about a red Suzuki first came to dispatchers at 3:23 p.m., April 22, 2020.

Anthony Faustine

An unknown woman told them the car was swerving on eastbound Interstate-40 and almost hit her car, just before it left on Exit 104, toward State Road 124. Officers were sent to look for the car, he wrote.

Laguna Highway Safety Officer Keith Riley told Mariano that while searching, he talked to a construction foreman on Rainfall Road, Mariano wrote.

“The foreman told HSO Riley that the vehicle which Officers were looking for passed through their work zone and nearly hit a few of the workers while it was passing through,” Mariano wrote. “HSO Riley was also told the vehicle was traveling on Cottonwood Trail, headed toward the Pueblo of Acoma.”

Riley and Laguna Police Department Officer Roslynn Lente found the red Suzuki near the border of Acoma and Laguna on Cottonwood Trail. Riley pulled in front of the car with his emergency lights, exited and told the driver to get out. The driver, later identified as Faustine, allegedly refused, revved the engine and sped away from Riley, Mariano wrote.

Riley “contacted the hood” as it sped off and Lente was “nearly to the vehicle” when Riley told her to stay in her car, as Faustine allegedly sped by her, Mariano wrote.

As the red Suzuki Sidekick sped away, the officers began to pursue it, then Riley called it off because it was on a dirt road, he wrote.

“HSO Riley then said just as he was finished the vehicle drove around a corner and began to roll,” Mariano wrote.

When the pair arrived at the crash scene, Faustine allegedly ran from the vehicle and Riley chased him on foot and told Lente to tend to the other two people in the car, he wrote.

Riley unholstered his stun gun and told Faustine to stop. Faustine fell to the ground and Riley placed him “restraints.” Faustine smelled of alcohol, had slurred speech, bloodshot and glassy eyes and could not maintain his balance, Mariano wrote.

The crash ejected the front passenger, Timothy Chino, and pinned him under the vehicle. The other passenger, Katrina Juanico, was in the back seat and airlifted from the scene, he wrote.

While one medic, Isaac Herrera, tried to get Faustine’s blood pressure, Faustine allegedly tried to bit him. Faustine was eventually transported by ambulance for his injuries, Mariano wrote.

Mariano wrote he found Bud Light beer cans from the “beginning to the end of the crash,” as well as two bottles of vodka, he wrote.

Indictment

A federal grand jury indicted Faustine on June 8, 2020, on charges of second-degree murder and assault resulting in serious bodily injury for the crash that, according to tribal court documents, allegedly killed Timothy Chino and severely injured Katrina Juanico.

Ariel view of Laguna. Photo by Dickyon/Wikimedia

Federal Magistrate Judge Steven Yarbrough ordered Faustine held without bail, and remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshal’s Service, during his virtual arraignment, Monday (8/31/2020). Faustine pleaded not guilty and waived a detention hearing.

According to federal court filings, Faustine was being held in the Cibola County Detention Center in Grants prior to his initial appearance on Aug. 27, 2020.

Faustine appears to have been initially jailed, following the crash, after Laguna Pueblo tribal police officer Brandon Mariano charged him in Laguna Pueblo tribal court with homicide by vehicle, reckless driving, aggravated DUI and battery following the April 22, 2020 crash.

Probation violations

On April 20, 2020, District Court Judge Amanda Sanchez Villalobos ordered Faustine released from jail after arraigning him on a bench warrant issued on Dec. 13, 2018 after he failed to appear for his arraignment on the original probation violation.

Amanda Sanchez Villalobos

He had been in custody since April 9, 2020, when the Isleta Police Department arrested him on the warrant.

Probation Officer Eric Barela wrote in a probation report dated Oct. 25, 2018 that Faustine was sentenced to three-and-a-half years of supervised probation on Oct. 6, 2016, on the DUI third offense and aggravated fleeing an officer charges.

“Since being sentenced Probationer Faustine has completed sanctions of 3 days and 7 days in custody due to violations of Reporting and Alcohol,” Barela wrote. “Probationer Faustine has shown by calling Cordant and failing to report for UA’s that he understands that he is violating his probation and continues to disreguard (sic) the orders of this court and his orders of probation.”

Barela wrote in the 2018 report that Faustine’s convictions, along with his failure to report and to complete drug and alcohol tests, meant he was a danger to the community.

“Probationer Faustine is now and (sic) ABSCONDER from supervision and has proven that he does not take probation serious and is not a good candidate for supervised probation,” Barela wrote.

Barela wrote he was asking that the prosecutor file a motion to revoke his probation and sentence him to the remainder of his sentence, which would have had him in jail until June 4, 2020.

Prosecutor Sherry Thompson filed a motion to revoke Faustine’s probation on Nov. 15, 2018. She included the original plea deal, signed by prosecutor Brandon Vigil, which gave Faustine a suspended sentence minus the mandatory 97 days he had to serve on the DUI charge. The plea was approved by District Judge Pedro Rael.

When he was supposed to be arraigned on the probation violation charges, he never showed up, leading to the Dec. 13, 2018 bench warrant, eventually served on April 9, 2020, by the Isleta Police Department, according to court records.

After Faustine was arraigned on April 20, 2020, Barela issued a violation report on May 1, 2020, after Faustine failed to report for probation, followed by another on May 5. Sanchez Villalobos issued a bench warrant on May 6. It appears he did not know about the crash until, May 13, when he received a notification of arrest for Faustine. It listed him as in the Laguna jail.

Sentenced on probation violations

Sanchez Villalobos sentenced Anthony Faustine, 40, on Sept. 1, 2020, to 417 days after he admitted to violating his probation in the his 2016 DWI 3rd offense and fleeing an officer case. She also ordered him discharged from probation.

Stories on this case

Acoma man sentenced for absconding prior to fatal crash

Acoma man arraigned for killing man in DWI crash after fleeing police

 

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Judge gives drunk driver 6 years for killing woman, injuring her two children

  • Mateo Maestas received a 6-year sentence, although prosecutors wanted the max, 8 years, while the defense asked for the minimum, 5 years
  • The judge gave Maestas 60 days of release before going to prison
  • Maestas was arrested a month later for a host of violations, including drinking, and sent to prison

See the case write-up

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Mateo Maestas will spend six years in prison after a federal District Court judge sentenced him for killing a Laguna Pueblo woman, and severely injured her two children, in a drunk driving crash.

Federal District Judge Dee Benson

Federal District Judge Dee Benson sentenced Maestas, 22, of Cuba, on Jan. 23, 2020 during an hour and 20 minute hearing in federal District Court in Albuquerque.

Maestas, a member of the Acoma Pueblo, previously pleaded guilty to a charge of involuntary manslaughter on Sept. 9, 2019.  According to the plea deal accepted by federal Magistrate Judge Laura Fashing, Maestas faced a sentence of five to eight years. He was originally charged on April 18, 2019, arrested on May 22 and released pending trial on May 29.

Involuntary manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of eight years, although prosecutor Elisa Dimas claimed he could have faced a much greater sentence, without the plea, for the injuries he caused the woman’s children.

Benson gave Maestas, who had been released to house arrest on May 29, 2019, pending the outcome of his case, 60 days to turn himself into to prison to start serving his sentence, according to the minute sheet.

A month later, he was wanted on a warrant for allegedly violating the conditions of his release.

According to the sentencing minute sheet, Dimas asked for an 8-year sentence during the hearing and Maestas’ defense attorney, Britany Schaffer, asked for a 5-year sentence.

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Acoma Pueblo man pleas in fatal DWI crash, to get 5-8 year sentence

  • Mateo Maestas drunkenly crashed into an unidentified Laguna Pueblo woman’s car on April 19, 2019, killing her
  • The plea deal sets his sentence between 5-8 years
  • In secret court documents, prosecutor Elisa Dimas asked for Maestas to receive either the maximum sentence or one greater than allowed under his plea deal

Read the full case summary

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A 22-year-old Acoma Pueblo man is tentatively set to be sentenced on Jan. 17, 2020, for an April 2019 crash that killed a woman and injured her two children on the Laguna Pueblo.

Laguna Pueblo as seen from I-40. Photo by Ken Lund/Flickr

Mateo Maestas pleaded guilty to a single count of involuntary manslaughter on Sept. 5, 2019. According to the plea deal, accepted by federal Magistrate Judge Laura Fashing, the sentencing judge is bound to sentence Maestas to five to eight years in prison. Eight years is the maximum sentence for involuntary manslaughter. He was previously indicted on the manslaughter charge on June 12, 2019.

According to an order continuing his sentencing hearing, Federal District Court Judge James Browning is set to sentence Maestas at 8:30 a.m., Jan. 17, 2020 in Federal District Court in Albuquerque.

In preparation for the sentencing hearing, his attorney, Britany Schaffer, filed a 15-page sentencing memorandum on Dec. 31, 2019.

She wrote that Maestas drove because his friends left him at his car following a minor argument.

“He made a terrible error in attempting to drive back to safety, one for which he will be haunted by for the rest of his life,” Schaffer wrote. “He called out for help to one of his loved ones, but he was too far away to be able to help.”

Schaffer does not write how Maestas was in danger, or what he was in danger from, that he needed to drive, drunk, to safety, or what safety he was trying to drive toward.

The presentence report, which isn’t public, suggested a sentence of 2 1/2 to 3 years, she wrote.

Schaffer wrote that she wants Browning to give Maestas a sentence at the low end of the plea agreement.

“Mr. Maestas has a criminal history of zero: that is, prior to this case, he has never been convicted of a crime, other than a single speeding ticket,” she wrote. “He is young, hard-working and educated, and aspires to help others in his future as he has been doing during his counseling sessions while this case has been pending.”

He is the grandson of Wilson Joe Chiquito, who was killed in his home. The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s investigation into his killing is still unsolved.

“Although there is no excuse for his actions on the date of the accident, Mr. Maestas was heavily impacted by the loss of his grandfather, and, at the time when this accident occurred, he had unfortunately fallen into a pattern of using alcohol in an unhealthy manner. He was forthright with his probation officer when he discussed his drinking habits, and that he ‘was struggling with alcohol use,'” Schaffer wrote.

Prosecutor Elisa Dimas wants Browning to give Maestas a sentence above the maximum of eight years agreed to in his plea deal because of his “uncharged conduct,” Schaffer wrote. This is because of the injuries to the Laguna Pueblo woman’s children.

One child, L.R., received “liver lacerations and spleen injuries.” She was unrestrained in the back seat.

Dimas’ actual request to increase Maestas’ possible sentence does not appear in the public court docket. The public docket is missing entries 38 and 39 and 44 through 46.

According to Schaffer’s sentencing memo, Dimas’ request for Maestas to receive a sentence above what she agreed to in the plea agreement is document 45, which does not appear on the public court docket. There is no explanation as to why the document is being kept secret and there are no entries indicating it was sealed, or that either the defense or prosecution requested it be sealed.

According to Schaffer’s memo, Dimas wants Maestas to be sentenced to at least a maximum of eight years and one month, one month above what was allowed in his plea deal, although it is not clear if she is seeking a sentence above that and her request is not on the public docket.

In 2018, journalist Jeff Proctor wrote about prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which prosecutes federal cases, and public defenders, improperly sealing court documents, a process that requires a judge’s consent.

Maestas also wrote a letter to Browning and the dead woman’s family. Although he wrote that he feels sympathy for the woman’s family and he regrets the decision he made, because it killed the Laguna Pueblo woman, much of his letter is about the unsolved killing of his grandfather.

Maestas is tentatively set to be sentenced on Jan. 17, 2020.

The details of the crash are in the case write-up.

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Mateo Maestas: A Laguno Pueblo woman, YOB 1975 — 4-16-2019

Suspect: Mateo Maestas

Victim: A Laguna Pueblo woman (YOB 1975)

Non-fatal victim 1: A child, YOB 2010

Non-fatal victim 2: A child, YOB 2012

Charges: Involuntary manslaughter

Status: Guilty plea to involuntary manslaughter; agreement, sentence range of 5 to 8 years.

Sentence: 6 years

Date of incident: April 16, 2019

Incident type: DWI

Investigative agencies: Bureau of Indian Affairs

Location: State Road 124 at Yellow Hill Road, Laguna Pueblo, Cibola County

Federal Magistrate case number: 19-mj-1030

Federal District case number: 19-cr-01614

Prosecutor: Elisa Dimas

 

Summary

On April 16, 2019, Mateo Maestas, 22, of Cuba, and enrolled member of the Acoma tribe/Navajo nation, crashed in Laguna into a car driven by a Laguna Pueblo woman, born in 1975 and not identified in court documents, on State Road 124 (Old Highway Route 66). He was drunk. As a result of the crash, the woman died. Her two children, in the car, survived. On April 18, he was arrested on charges of involuntary manslaughter, DWI and reckless driving.

On June 12, 2019, he was indicted on a single charge of involuntary manslaughter.

On Sept. 5, 2019, Maestas pleaded guilty to the manslaughter charge under a plea deal that specified his sentence would be between five and eight years and it was accepted by federal Magistrate Judge Laura Fashing.

On Jan. 23, 2020, Federal District Judge Dee Benson sentenced Maestas to six years in prison and allowed him 60 days to self surrender. Maestas was arrested a month later for violating the conditions of his pretrial release.

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The crash and indictment

On April 16, 2019, the Laguna Pueblo woman was driving west on Old Highway Route 66, also known as State Road 124, when Maestas, driving a black Ford sedan, either tried to turn onto Yellow Hill Road or tried to make a U-turn in the intersection, Bureau of Indian Affairs Agent Marcelino ToersBijns wrote in an affidavit for an arrest warrant, submitted to the court on April 18. The lead investigator was BIA Agent RoAnna Bennett.

Laguna Pueblo by ANOXLOU/Flickr

While turning, Maestas’s car slammed into the Laguna Pueblo woman’s car, forcing it off the road and into a small wash on the side of the road.

The crash was initially reported by an unknown woman. The two children in the car were reported to have received serious injuries and the driver was dead when investigators arrived.

State Police Capt. Troy Velasquez told ToersBijns that he was the first officer to arrive at the scene and he checked on Maestas, who said he wanted to get out of his car and wanted help. Velasquez told the federal investigator he saw multiple beer cans in the car and Maestas smelled like alcohol. He made no mention if Velasquez checked on the woman or her children or what their status were.

Laguna Police Officer Keith Riley told ToersBijns that he arrived at the scene “minutes after it occurred” and also spoke to Maestas and asked him how much he drank.

“(He) replied he had too much to drink,” ToersBijns wrote. “MAESTAS was asked what he had to drink and MAESTAS replied margaritas.”

At the hospital, a “presumption blood results” showed a blood-alcohol level of 0.28, over three times the legal-per-se limit is 0.08. According to his plea deal, his blood-alcohol content was later determined to be lower, at 0.19.

According to a sentencing memorandum by his attorney, Britany Schaffer, Maestas was abandoned at his vehicle the night of the accident “in the middle of nowhere by his friends” following a “minor argument.”

“He made a terrible error in attempting to drive back to safety, one for which he will be haunted by for the rest of his life,” Schaffer wrote. “He called out for help to one of his loved ones, but he was too far away to be able to help.”

One of the children, L.R., suffered “liver lacerations and spleen injuries.” She was unrestrained in the back seat.

Schaffer does not write how Maestas was in danger that he needed to drive, drunk, to safety.

Although the criminal complaint was filed on April 18, Maestas was not arrested until May 22 and on May 29, he was released and placed on house arrest, according to court records.

On June 12, a federal grand jury indicted Maestas on a single charge of involuntary manslaughter.

 

The plea

On Sept. 5, 2019, Mateo Maestas pleaded guilty to a single count of involuntary manslaughter, which carries a maximum sentence of eight years.

According to the plea deal, accepted by Magistrate Judge Laura Fashing, dictates Maestas’ sentence will be between five and eight years, although he will be sentenced by Federal District Court Judge James Browning.

Sentence, wrangling and revoked release

Sentence wrangling

In preparation for the sentencing hearing set for Jan. 17, 2020, his attorney, Britany Schaffer, filed a 15-page sentencing memorandum on Dec. 31, 2019.

She wrote that Maestas drove because his friends left him at his car following a minor argument.

“He made a terrible error in attempting to drive back to safety, one for which he will be haunted by for the rest of his life,” Schaffer wrote. “He called out for help to one of his loved ones, but he was too far away to be able to help.”

Schaffer does not write how Maestas was in danger, or what he was in danger from, that he needed to drive, drunk, to safety, or what safety he was trying to drive toward.

The presentence report, which isn’t public, suggested a sentence of 2 1/2 to 3 years, she wrote.

Schaffer wrote that she wants Browning to give Maestas a sentence at the low end of the plea agreement.

“Mr. Maestas has a criminal history of zero: that is, prior to this case, he has never been convicted of a crime, other than a single speeding ticket,” she wrote. “He is young, hard-working and educated, and aspires to help others in his future as he has been doing during his counseling sessions while this case has been pending.”

He is the grandson of Wilson Joe Chiquito, who was killed in his home. The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s investigation into his killing is still unsolved.

“Although there is no excuse for his actions on the date of the accident, Mr. Maestas was heavily impacted by the loss of his grandfather, and, at the time when this accident occurred, he had unfortunately fallen into a pattern of using alcohol in an unhealthy manner. He was forthright with his probation officer when he discussed his drinking habits, and that he ‘was struggling with alcohol use,'” Schaffer wrote.

Prosecutor Elisa Dimas wants Browning to give Maestas a sentence above the maximum of eight years agreed to in his plea deal because of his “uncharged conduct,” Schaffer wrote. This is because of the injuries to the Laguna Pueblo woman’s children.

One child, L.R., received “liver lacerations and spleen injuries.” She was unrestrained in the back seat.

Dimas’ actual request to increase Maestas’ possible sentence does not appear in the public court docket. The public docket is missing entries 38 and 39 and 44 through 46.

According to Schaffer’s sentencing memo, Dimas’ request for Maestas to receive a sentence above what she agreed to in the plea agreement is document 45, which does not appear on the public court docket. There is no explanation as to why the document is being kept secret and there are no entries indicating it was sealed, or that either the defense or prosecution requested it be sealed.

According to Schaffer’s memo, Dimas wants Maestas to be sentenced to at least a maximum of eight years and one month, one month above what was allowed in his plea deal, although it is not clear if she is seeking a sentence above that and her request is not on the public docket.

In 2018, journalist Jeff Proctor wrote about prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which prosecutes federal cases, and public defenders, improperly sealing court documents, a process that requires a judge’s consent.

Maestas also wrote a letter to Browning and the dead woman’s family. Although he wrote that he feels sympathy for the woman’s family and he regrets the decision he made, because it killed the Laguna Pueblo woman, much of his letter is about the unsolved killing of his grandfather.

Sentence

Federal District Judge Dee Benson sentenced Maestas on Jan. 23, 2020, to six years in prison, during an hour and 20 minute hearing in federal District Court in Albuquerque.

Federal District Judge Dee Benson

According to the sentencing minute sheet, Dimas asked for an 8-year sentence during the hearing and Maestas’ defense attorney, Britany Schaffer, asked for a 5-year sentence.

According to the minutes, four members of Maestas’ family addressed the judge: M. Vigil, L. Castillo, M. Pablo and J. Maestas.

Maestas also addressed the court, but the minutes contain no information to what anyone said.

Three people also spoke in court on behalf of the victim. M. Valdez spoke on behalf of her family, M. Garcia spoke as a member of the victim’s family and R. Garcia spoke as the guardian of the dead woman’s children, according to the minutes.

Maestas was originally supposed to be sentenced by a different judge. No records indicate why Benson, normally a judge in Utah, sentenced Maestas.

No court documents illuminate why Benson settled on the sentence he did.

Release violations

After Benson gave Maestas 60 days to turn himself in to begin serving his prison sentence, Maestas’ attorneys requested he be allowed to return to his home pending his self-surrender, which Benson granted. Since Dec. 6, 2019, Maestas was living at a halfway house in Albuquerque. Before that, he had been on house arrest.

On Feb. 26, 2020, a federal judge with an illegible signature ordered Maestas arrested, which he was on March 3, 2020, in Albuquerque.

“Defendant failed to comply with conditions of release: alcohol use, failed to report contact with law enforement and failed to comply with travel restrictions,” according to the warrant.

Federal Magistrate Judge Paul Briones revoked the conditions of his release on March 5 and ordered he be sent to prison to begin serving his sentence.

See the case documents on Google Drive

The Albuquerque federal criminal courthouse. Ken Lund/Flickr. License CC BY-SA 2.0.