Mansoor Karimi asks for new sentence after 8 years imposed in remote hearing

Mansoor Karimi is asking for a sentence reconsideration after District Judge Mary Marlowe-Sommer gave him eight years
A jury found him guilty of two counts of vehicular homicide by reckless driving
• The reconsideration comes after he was sentenced by video conference
• Karimi’s attorney argued the First Judicial District Attorney’s Office offered disparate pleas for similar charges

Read the case write-up

SANTA FE, N.M. — After receiving eight years in prison for the deaths of two men following a reckless driving crash, Mansoor Karimi‘s attorney is asking for less prison time because he was sentenced over video and prosecutors have offered more lenient pleas and sentences for “worse driving behavior than committed by the Defendant.”

Mansoor Karimi

On Feb. 18, 2020, a jury found Mansoor Karimi, 42, guilty on two counts of vehicular homicide by reckless driving for the deaths of Ian Sweatt, 33, and Christopher Bryant, 30, after he T-boned their car on Dec. 16, 2016, according to jury verdict slips.

On July 17, 2020, District Judge Mary Marlowe-Sommer sentenced Karimi to eight years in prison and suspended an additional four years, of a possible 12-year sentence, which he will spend on supervised probation, according to a judgement and sentence.

According to Phaedra Haywoood of the Santa Fe New Mexican, Marlowe-Sommer told Karimi, before she sentenced him, he was driving too fast, “blew through a stop sign” and that the crash was avoidable.

She sentenced Karimi to four years for the death of Sweatt and four years for the death of Bryant. He received credit for five months time served.

Karimi’s attorney, Tom Clark, filed a motion to reconsider the sentence on Aug. 18, 2020. He wrote that Karimi should have been sentenced in person, as his sentence could have been so high because the video feed affected Marlowe-Sommer’s ability to “fully assess” his remorsefulness

“That the absence of any degree of humanity, in a proceeding done entirely by video and audio, affects the ability of the Court to impose a sentence consistence with a just and fair sentence,” Clark wrote.

Clark previously asked the case be moved to the July date so Karimi could be sentenced in person. Marlowe-Sommer continued it to then. She noted that it was anticipated that in-court hearings could be held by then.

On July 7, Marlowe-Sommer designated the sentencing hearing as being held remotely, citing Supreme Court Order 20-8500-025, which requires all hearing, except for jury trials, be done remotely, unless the judge finds a “compelling need” to physically appear.

“There is nothing that cannot be communicated through audio-video connection by Defendant and counsel, and by audio-video or telephonic connection by the victims or any other persons,” she wrote. “The particular circumstances of this case fail to demonstrate a compelling need for an in person sentencing hearing.”

Clark wrote in his motion that he believed Karimi’s due process rights were violated by the “impersonal, constraining, and awkward presentation of his sentencing argument by video.”

“Defendant asserts that this potentially is a reason that contributed to the sentence in this case which exceeded the seven (7) year sentence requested by the State,” Clark wrote.

Clark wrote in his motion that Mansoor also deserved to have his sentence reconsidered because prosecutors with the First Judicial District Attorney’s Office treated Mansoor differently than the defendant in a similar case.

“Additionally, a few weeks after Mr. Karimi was sentenced, the State, by and through a different Assistant District Attorney presented this Court with a plea to a misdemeanor sentence in a case involving vehicular homicide by reckless driving, alleging worse driving behavior than was committed by the Defendant while Mr. (Kent) Wahlquist requested less than the maximum sentence, no such pre-trial resolution was ever offered to Mr. Karimi,” Clark wrote.

Judge's portrait
District Judge Mary Marlowe-Sommer

Clark appears to be referring to the case of Ryan Palma, charged with vehicular homicide and leaving the scene of an accident for the death of a 20-year-old motorcyclist. A grand jury indicted Palma on charges of vehicular homicide by reckless driving, knowingly leaving the scene of an accident causing death, tampering with evidence and failure to give immediate notice of accidents.

Haywood reported on Palma’s case and that Marlowe-Sommer rejected a plea deal, July 31, 2020, where Palma would plead no contest to knowingly leaving the scene of an accident and have all the other charges dropped.

Haywood wrote that prosecutor Julie Gallardo said her office was offering Palma a plea of no contest to knowingly leaving the scene of the accident and all the other charges would be dismissed. The proposed plea deal for Palma does not appear in court records and it is not clear if the offer was for the misdemeanor form of leaving the scene of an accident or the felony form.

Clark wrote in Karimi’s case that his client was only offered a plea with no agreement as to sentence. He went on to write:

“It is at best, an arbitrary and unfair charging decision against an individual without a valid explanation. Such non-uniform plea policies, varying drastically from one prosecutor to the next, are inherently unfair, and raise troubling questions about the charging decision in case;

While the Court rejected the plea, it certainly appears that justice, by way of plea policies, has less to do with the facts of any particular case and more to do with the individual prosecutor, or the individual charged. It is not about the facts of the case.”

No new hearing has been set in the case.

Continue reading “Mansoor Karimi asks for new sentence after 8 years imposed in remote hearing”

Sentencing for double vehicular homicide in Santa Fe reset to July

• A jury found Mansoor Karimi guilty for vehicular homicide by reckless driving for the deaths of two men
• He faces a maximum sentence of 12 years

Read the case write-up

SANTA FE, N.M. — The sentencing hearing for a Santa Fe man found guilty of killing two men in a reckless driving crash has been set for July 17, 2020, after the courts reopen for in-person hearings.

Mansoor Karimi

On Feb. 18, 2020, a jury found Mansoor Karimi, 42, guilty on two counts of vehicular homicide by reckless driving for the deaths of Ian Sweatt, 33, and Christopher Bryant, 30, after he T-boned their car on Dec. 16, 2016, according to jury verdict slips.

According to Phaedra Haywoood of the Santa Fe New Mexican, it took the jurors less than two hours to render a verdict following the five-day trial. Another charge, of failure to render aid, was thrown out following a directed verdict.

Karimi blew through a stop sign, at the intersection of Camino Carlos Rey and Plaza Verde, at 60 to 70 mph. The speed limit was 25 mph, according to court documents.

Following the verdict, District Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer ordered Karimi be remanded into custody pending sentencing and to undergo a 60-day evaluation to determine a sentence. He faces a maximum sentence of 12 years.

Sentencing had initially been set for May 13, 2020, but Karimi’s attorney, Tom Clark, requested it be set for a day when in-person court hearings were allowed again.

“To conduct this sentencing by video and/or audio limits counsel’s ability to effectively advocate on the Defendant’s behalf,” Clark wrote.

Jury trials in the state are set to resume, on a case-by-case basis, between June 15 and July 15.

In an order dated May 18, Marlowe Sommer set the sentencing hearing for 11 a.m., July 17 in Santa Fe.

“The Court anticipates that appropriate precautionary measures to safely conduct jury trials and in-person evidentiary hearings will be in place on or about July 15, 2020,” she wrote.

Lawsuit

On April 22, 2019, Sweatt’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit (D-101-CV-2019-01095) against Karimi and General Motors, which manufactured the Chevy Cobalt that Bryant was driving. That lawsuit is covered in this story.

To learn more about this case, please read the case write-up.

Continue reading “Sentencing for double vehicular homicide in Santa Fe reset to July”

Santa Fe man sentenced to 12 years for fatal DWI crash

Editor’s Note: This story published late, eight months after sentencing, because court records were not previously available.

Read the case write up

SANTA FE, N.M. — Paulo Vega-Mendoza will spend 12 years in prison for crashing into motorcyclist Paul Padilla and killing him, in 2017.

Paulo Vega-Mendoza

District Court Judge T. Glenn Ellington sentenced Vega-Mendoza, 25, of Santa Fe, to 12 years followed by three years of supervised probation on Sept. 27, 2019. He had previously pleaded guilty to a single count of DWI vehicular homicide on April 29, 2019, under a plea signed by prosecutor Blake Nichols.

Ellington gave Vega-Mendoza credit for 792 days served, just over two years, for time spent in jail and on electronic monitoring prior sentencing.

Vega-Mendoza ran into the back of Padilla’s motorcycle, April 15, 2017, on Airport Road in Santa Fe. He fled from the scene and then crashed his own car, a Dodge Neon. It landed on its hood.

Witnesses, and then officers, allegedly chased Vega-Mendoza on foot before he tried to climb and fence and it broke, throwing him backward.

Padilla, 63,  died from extensive brain injuries on April 25, 2017.

For more details, please see the summary of the case.

Do you have information about this case? NM Homicide needs your assistance. Please fill out this form.

Continue reading “Santa Fe man sentenced to 12 years for fatal DWI crash”

Autopsy reports: Fatal crash victims had methamphetamine in system, high BAC

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The autopsy reports for the two people killed in a car wreck in October 2018 shows they both had been drinking and consumed methamphetamine before the crash.

Zuni Pueblo, eastern edge. Photo by Joseph Novak/Flickr

Their drinking and methamphetamine use was cited by federal prosecutor Frederick Mendenhall as the reason for the sentence he gave Joey Unkestine in a plea deal: 3 years and 10 months.

Joey Unkestine killed his girlfriend, Katherine Edaakie, his brother, Elison Unkestine and injured Edaakie’s child, referred to in court documents as D.G., when he crashed a 2002 Ford Explorer on Oct. 18, 2018, on Highway 53 on the Zuni Pueblo.

On June 20, 2019, Joey Unkestine pleaded guilty to two counts of involuntary manslaughter and one count of child endangerment. On Oct. 18, 2019, the 1-year anniversary of the crash, Joey Unkestine was sentenced to 3 years and 10 months in prison, per a plea agreement signed by Mendenhall. Federal Magistrate Judge Jerry Ritter accepted the plea. Federal District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl entered the sentence.

According to the plea agreement and a sentencing memorandum written by Mendenhall, Joey Unkestine’s blood-alcohol level was later measured at 0.36 and he was estimated to be driving between 74 and 93 mph on a 55-mph-limit road.

Because the two people in the car were drinking, their deaths do not warrant a sentence at the top of the sentencing range, citing United States v Lente. However, the child being placed in danger did warrant the lengthier sentence, as did his history with alcohol, Mendenhall wrote in the sentencing memorandum:

The two adult victims in this case had been drinking in the vehicle. Both of their deaths are tragic, but the circumstances of this case suggest an upward departure or variance is not necessarily warranted.

According to Edaakie’s autopsy report, she had a blood-alcohol level of 0.28 and methamphetamine in her system.

Continue reading “Autopsy reports: Fatal crash victims had methamphetamine in system, high BAC”

3 years, 10 months prison for Zuni Pueblo man who killed girlfriend, brother in DUI crash

  • Joey Unkestine crashed his car on Oct. 18, 2018, killing 2 people
  • Prosecutor Frederick Mendenhall set Joey Unkestine’s sentence at 3 years 10 months
  • Unkestine had a history of alcohol-related convictions
  • Mendenhall: Killing two people did not warrant a heftier sentence

See the case write-up or more stories about the case

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — On Oct. 18, 2019, the 1-year anniversary of the day he rolled his Ford Explorer, killing his girlfriend, his brother and injuring his girlfriend’s 9-year-old son, Joey Unkestine received a three year and 10 month sentence.

The sentence was no surprise. When Unkestine pleaded guilty on June 20, 2019, to two counts of involuntary manslaughter and one count of child endangerment, federal prosecutor Frederick Mendenhall had already agreed to the binding sentence when he brought it to Federal Magistrate Judge Jerry Ritter.

Ultimately, Federal District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl issued the sentence, which only carried two years of probation. Mendenhall asked for three.

According to the plea agreement and a sentencing memorandum written by Mendenhall, Unkestine crashed a 2002 Ford Explorer on Highway 53 on the Zuni Pueblo on Oct. 18, 2018, killing his girlfriend, Katherine Edaakie, his brother, Elison Unkestine, referred to in court documents as K.E. and E.U. and injuring his girlfriend’s son, referred to as D.G. His blood-alcohol level was later measured at 0.35 and he was estimated to be driving between 74 and 93 mph on a 55-mph-limit road. For comparison, the legal-per-se limit is 0.08 and above 0.40 can be fatal.

Opioids and methamphetamine were also found in his system, although he claimed he used no drugs that day. The brother and girlfriend had also been drinking while he was driving. D.G. received “only scrapes and bruises,” Mendenhall wrote.

Unkestine had several prior convictions “involving alcohol” but all of them were tribal, Mendenhall wrote.

Continue reading “3 years, 10 months prison for Zuni Pueblo man who killed girlfriend, brother in DUI crash”

Paulo Vega-Mendoza pleads to vehicular homicide with no agreement to sentence

See the full case write-up here

SANTA FE, N.M. — Paulo Vega-Mendoza, of Santa Fe, will spend up to 15 years in prison after he pleaded guilty, April 29, to a single count of DWI vehicular homicide for a drunken crash that killed motorcyclist Paul Padilla, 63.

Paulo Vega-Mendoza

According to the plea deal, prosecutors agreed to drop the other charge he was facing, leaving the scene of an accident causing great bodily harm or death. However, there is no agreement on a sentence, which means District Court Judge T. Glenn Ellington could sentence him to the maximum: 15 years.

Ellington set the sentencing hearing for Sept. 27, 2019.

Vega-Mendoza ran into the back of Padilla’s motorcycle, April 15, 2017, on Airport Road in Santa Fe. He fled from the scene and then crashed his own car, a Dodge Neon. It landed on its hood.

Witnesses, and then officers, allegedly chased Vega-Mendoza on foot before he tried to climb and fence and it broke, throwing him backward.

Padilla died from extensive brain injuries on April 25, 2017.

For more details, please see the summary of the case.

Continue reading “Paulo Vega-Mendoza pleads to vehicular homicide with no agreement to sentence”

Civil lawsuit filed in double vehicular homicide case

See the full case here

SANTA FE, N.M. — On April 22, 2019, Ian Sweatt’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit (D-101-CV-2019-01095) against General Motors, which manufactured the Chevy Cobalt that Bryant was driving, and Mansoor Karimi, who allegedly crashed into his vehicle, killing him and Christopher Bryant, 30.

Mansoor Karimi

According to the amended lawsuit complaint, Sweatt, 33, and Bryant were both wearing seat belts but were still killed by the crash because the Cobalt “violated several crashworthiness principles and thereby failed to protect them.”

“The injuries complained of herein occurred because the vehicle in question was not reasonably crashworthy and, thereby, created an unreasonable risk of injury and harm,” attorney Justin Kaufman wrote in the complaint.

He listed a series of problems with the Cobalt, including that the seat belts did not prevent “adequate protection to far sided occupants,” that it failed to prevent “rollout” from the far side, the car’s side structure was “weak and inferior” and the “survival space” in the car was destroyed.

Continue reading “Civil lawsuit filed in double vehicular homicide case”

Joey Unkestine: Elison Unkestine, Katherine Edaakie — 10-18-2018

Suspect: Joey Unkestine

Victim: Katherine Edaakie (Joey Unkestine’s girlfriend)

Victim: Elison Unkestine (Joey Unkestine’s brother)

Non-fatal victim: A child, D.G., 9 (Edaakie’s son)

Charges: Two counts of involuntary manslaughter and one count of child endangerment

Status: Guilty plea to two counts of involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment; sentenced

Sentence: 3 years, 10 months years followed by 2 years probation

Date of incident: Oct. 18, 2018

Incident type: DWI

Agency: FBI

Location: Highway 53, Zuni Pueblo, McKinley County

Magistrate case number: None

District case number: 19-cr-0094

Prosecutor: Frederick Mendenhall

 

Summary

On Oct. 18, 2018, Joey Unkestine crashed a 2002 Ford Explorer on Highway 53 on the Zuni Pueblo, killing his brother, Elison Unkestine and his girlfriend, Katherine Edaakie and injuring his girlfriend’s son (D.G.). He was allegedly drunk.

His blood-alcohol level was later measured at 0.35 and he was estimated to be driving between 74 and 93 mph on a 55-mph-limit road.

[cmtoc_table_of_contents]

The incident, plea and sentence

Joey Unkestine was driving between 74 and 93 mph on Highway 53 on the Zuni Pueblo, after he had been drinking extensively, when he rolled his 2002 Ford Explorer, killing his girlfriend and brother and injuring his girlfriend’s 9-year-old son, D.G., according to his plea agreement.

Zuni Pueblo, eastern edge. Photo by Joseph Novak/Flickr

According to a sentencing memorandum filed by prosecutor Frederick Mendenhall, testing would later show Unkestine’s blood-alcohol content to be 0.36. For comparison, the legal-per-se limit is 0.08 and above 0.40 can be fatal.

Opioids and methamphetamine were also found in his system, although he claimed he used no drugs that day. The brother and girlfriend had also been drinking while he was driving. D.G. received “only scrapes and bruises,” Mendenhall wrote.

Unkestine had several prior convictions “involving alcohol” but all of them were tribal, Mendenhall wrote.

On March 18, 2019, a grand jury indicted Unkestine on two counts of involuntary manslaughter and one count of child endangerment, according to the indictment.

On June 20, 2019, Unkestine pleaded guilty to the charges. Mendenhall and defense attorney Irma Rivas signed the plea deal. Federal Magistrate Judge Jerry Ritter accepted the binding plea agreement.

According to the plea agreement, Unkestine would only receive a sentence of three years, 10 months. Ultimately, he received two years of probation when prosecutors asked for three.

According to Mendenhall’s sentencing memorandum, three years, 10 months is the “upper-guideline sentence” and reflects the seriousness of the offense.

Because the two people in the car were drinking, their deaths do not warrant a sentence at the top of the sentencing range. However, the child being placed in danger did warrant the lengthier sentence, as did his history with alcohol.

Mendenhall did not write why, specifically, he agreed to a three year sentence for the deaths of two people, one of which left a child without his mother. However, he noted that both he and the defense minimized the uncertainty that comes with a trial.

Federal District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl sentenced Unkestine on Oct. 18, 2019, to the three years, 10 months stipulated in the plea agreement and two years probation, a year less than requested by the prosecutor, according to the sentencing minute sheet.

No investigative documents appear in the court record.

 

Improperly sealed documents?

According to the local rules and federal rules, documents are only supposed to be filed under seal for good reason and a record of the motion to file a document under seal is supposed to appear on the court docket, as outlined by Jeff Proctor in New Mexico In Depth.

According to Mendenhall’s sentencing memorandum, the only document that was docketed but is not public is #27, the pre-sentencing investigation report by the probation department.

However, according to the docket, entry 28 was also sealed, as were 30 and 31. In addition, documents 34-36 appear to be sealed with no motions for sealing and no record of sealing, a process which is supposed to warrant a judge’s approval.

According to Sealing Court Records and Proceedings: A Pocket Guide, “(there) should be a public record of what is sealed and why, consistent with the reason for sealing.”

Autopsies

According to Edaakie’s autopsy report, she had a blood-alcohol level of 0.28 and methamphetamine in her system.

According to Elison Unkestine’s autopsy report, his blood-alcohol level was 0.14 and he also had methamphetamine in his system.

Office of the Medical Investigator Field Investigator Maria Olivares wrote, in a field investigation, the SUV was heavily damaged and Elison Unkestine had been ejected from it and his right hand was amputated.

In Edaakie’s field investigation, Olivares found Edaakie’s body was in the east-bound lane.

 

See the documents on Google Drive

Paulo Vega-Mendoza: Paul Padilla — 4-15-2017

Suspect: Paulo Vega-Mendoza

Victim: Paul Padilla, 63

Charges: DWI great bodily harm, knowingly leaving the scene of an accident causing great bodily harm or death, failure to give notice of an accident and criminal damage to property under $1,000

Status: Sentenced following guilty plea to DWI vehicular homicide

Sentence: 12 years followed by 3 years supervised probation

Date of incident: April 15, 2017

Agency: Santa Fe Police Department

Location: Airport Road, Santa Fe

Magistrate case number: M-49-FR-2017-00472

District case number: D-101-CR-201700533

Sentencing judge: T. Glenn Ellington

Judicial district: First Judicial District

Prosecutor: Blake Nichols

Prosecuting agency: First Judicial District Attorney’s Office

 

Summary

An allegedly drunk Paulo Vega-Mendoza allegedly crashed into the back of the motorcycle Paul Padilla, 63, was driving on April 15, 2017 on Airport Road in Santa Fe.

Vega-Mendoza allegedly fled from the scene, after he allegedly crashed own car, a Dodge Neon. It landed on its hood.

Witnesses, and then officers, allegedly chased Vega-Mendoza on foot before he tried to climb and fence and it broke, throwing him backward.

Padilla died from extensive brain injuries on April 25, 2017.

[cmtoc_table_of_contents]

The incident

Santa Fe Police Department Officer Erasmo Montijo came across a motorcycle versus car crash on April 15. He called it in as soon as he arrived, at 5:44 p.m. He reported several witnesses were chasing the alleged driver in the accident north on Camino de Jacobo, Officer Michael Flores wrote in a statement of probable cause for Paulo Vega-Mendoza’s arrest.

At the scene of the crash, Flores found that the motorcyclist, Paul Padilla, was alive. He was flown to the University of New Mexico Hospital following the crash with extensive brain damage. He died April 25, 2017, 10 days later.

Witnesses told Flores that the motorcycle rolled, finally coming to a stop on top of Padilla.

Paulo Vega-Mendoza

Witness Mary Prone allegedly told officers she was driving east on Airport Road in the right lane and the motorcycle was in front of her and switched from the right to left lanes.

“Ms. Prones observed another vehicle, a Dodge Neon, pass her and did not brake,” Flores wrote. “The Dodge Neon struck the motorcycle from behind.”

Another witness, Margaret Johnson, said she was in the left lane and heard the Neon revving its engine and speeding.

“The Neon passed her in the right lane and cut in front of her to the left lane,” he wrote. “The vehicle was traveling at a high rate of speed and struck the motorcycle.”

After hitting the motorcycle, Vega-Mendoza’s Neon rolled, coming to rest on its hood.

“Mr. Vega-Mendoza then exited the vehicle and fled the scene,” Flores wrote. “Mr. Vega-Mendoza did not render aid or give immediate notice of an accident prior to leaving the scene.”

Montijo followed Vega-Mendoza as he allegedly fled on foot, north on Camino de Jacobo. He was being chased by several people.

“Officer Jared Alire and I jumped the fence and were in the backyard of a residence on Acequia Borrada,” Flores wrote. “On Acequia Borrada a male pointed to the west and stated ‘He ran that way.'”

Alire and Flores scaled a fence and found themselves in the same back yard as Vega-Mendoza as he allegedly tried to climb the fence opposite.

“As I finished negotiating the fence I observed the fence the male was pulling himself onto had broke and the male fell backwards to the ground,” Flores wrote. “Officer Alire then placed the male into handcuffs.”

While talking to Vega-Mendoza, Flores could allegedly smell alcohol coming from his breath. He also noticed alleged bloodshot, watery eyes and slurred speech.

After being read the implied consent act, Vega-Mendoza refused to submit to a blood-alcohol test. Flores later got a search warrant for the blood and the draw was done at 7:25 p.m.

He was arrested on charges of:

  • DWI great bodily harm
  • Knowingly leaving the scene of an accident causing great bodily harm or death
  • Failure to give notice of an accident
  • Criminal damage to property under $1,000
PC - Paulo Vega-Mendoza - 4-20-2017

 

Indictment and Plea deal

On July 7, 2017, he was indicted on charges of:

  • DWI vehicular homicide
  • knowingly leaving the scene of an accident causing great bodily harm or death
Judge's portrait
First Judicial District Judge T. Glenn Ellington

A summons was issued for him to appear on July 24, 2017, and he pleaded not guilty.

On April 29, Vega-Mendoza pleaded guilty to one count of DWI vehicular homicide and, according to the plea deal signed by prosecutor Blake Nichols, prosecutors agreed to drop the charge of knowingly leaving the scene of an accident. First Judicial District Court Judge T. Glenn Ellington accepted the plea.

However, according to the plea, there was no agreement as to the sentence and the maximum was 15 years.

Sentenced

Ellington sentenced Vega-Mendoza to 12 years in prison followed by three years supervised probation on Sept. 27, 2019, according to the judgement and sentence.

Vega-Mendoza received credit for 792 days served, just over two years, for time spent in jail and on electronic monitoring prior sentencing.

See the case documents on Google Drive. or Document Cloud

Dominic Friedlein: Stefan Siegmann — 4-9-2017

Suspect: Dominic Friedlein

Victim: Stefan Siegmann, 29

Charges: DWI vehicular homicide and two counts of DWI great bodily harm

Status: Guilty plea to DWI vehicular homicide

Sentence: 3 years: 354 days in jail, 1 year on electronic monitoring and 1 year credit for time served

Date of incident: April 9, 2017

Agency: Santa Fe Police Department

Location: Saint Francis Drive and San Mateo Road, Santa Fe

Magistrate case number: M-49-FR-2017-00410

District case number: D-101-CR-201700354

 

Summary

Dominic Friedlein allegedly turned left in front of another car, causing a crash that killed one of the two people traveling with him on April 9, 2017 in Santa Fe.

He was arrested following the arrest on charges of DWI vehicular homicide and two counts of DWI great bodily harm.

He was originally set to have a preliminary hearing on April 19, but it was postponed for reasons unlisted in the court record.

On May 5, 2017, he was indicted on the same charges.

On Jan. 2, 2018, he pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide and prosecutors dismissed the two counts of DWI great bodily harm as part of the plea agreement, which capped his sentence at three years. District Court Judge T. Glenn Ellington sentenced him to three years, with credit of one year time served, 354 days in jail and followed by one year on electronic monitoring.

[cmtoc_table_of_contents]

The incident

On April 9, 2017, Dominic Friedlein was allegedly driving a silver Toyota 4Runner with his friends, Stefan Siegmann, 29, and Hanna Young.

Siegmann died from head trauma. Young’s injuries were not listed, although she identified Friedlein as the driver.

Friedlein was allegedly driving north on Saint Francis Drive, approaching San Mateo Road, when he took a left onto San Mateo, Santa Fe Police Officer Heinz De Luca wrote in a statement of probable cause for Friedlein’s arrest.

De Luca interviewed Friedlein following the crash.

Dominic Friedlein

“According to Mr. Friedlein, before entering the intersection, he observed a silver, 2009 Chevrolet approaching the intersection on the southbound side of Saint Francis Drive,” De Luca wrote. “Mr. Friedlein added that he thought he had enough time and initiated a left turn. Upon entering the intersection on a green light it appeared to him as if the approaching vehicle was not going fast then it sped up and struck his vehicle on the right front side.”

Friedlein allegedly admitted to drinking three beers at the Second Street Brewery and De Luca alleged that his eyes were bloodshoot and he smelled like alcohol.

After conducting a field sobriety test, De Luca alleged Friedlein was impaired to the slightest degree, the legal test for intoxicated driving in New Mexico.

The people in the Chevy, Pamela Reyes, suffered nasty injuries. Driver Pamela Reyes had two broken wrists and three broken ribs while her 7-year-old son Jose Chavez has a fractured eye socket and an internal nose bleed.

After arresting Friedlein, the officer applied for a search warrant for the man’s blood, which was granted. The blood was taken at the Christus St. Vincent Medical Center in Santa Fe.

According to a sentencing memorandum filed later by a prosecutor, his blood-alcohol level was 0.12.

He was originally set to have a preliminary hearing on April 19, but it was postponed for reasons unlisted in the court record.

According to a sentencing memorandum filed by prosecutor Johnn Osborn, Reyes was driving 64 mph in a 45 mph zone up to one second before she slammed into the 4Runner Friedlein was driving. She braked, bringing her impact speed down to 45 mph.

Osborn wrote that Freidlein told an officer at the scene,

“I had three beers on an empty stomach, someone else should’ve drove, I ruined my life today … How do you not blame yourself for something like this, I killed someone today.”

PC - Dominic Friedlein - 4-10-2017

Indictment, plea and sentence

On May 4, 2017, a Santa Fe grand jury indicted Freidlein on charges of:

  • DWI vehicular homicide
  • Two counts of DWI great bodily harm

Plea

On Jan. 2, 2018, Freidlein pleaded guilty to DWI vehicular homicide for Seigmann’s death.

Judge's portrait
First Judicial District Judge T. Glenn Ellington

According to the plea agreement, Freidlein’s sentence would be capped at three years in prison followed by some term of supervised probation. In addition, the maximum sentence of 15 years would be imposed, but it would be suspended, so if Freidlein violated his probation, he could face much of the original maximum sentence.

According to prosecutor Johnn Osborn’s sentencing memorandum, Seigmann’s family wanted Freidlein to serve an additional year in custody, not counting the time he already spent in jail pending trial.

Seigmann was born in Austria to a mother from West Texas and a father from the Austrian Alps. He was a “central figure” in his extended family and his parents’ only child, Osborn wrote.

“He loved to plan ‘Cousins Weekend’ and family get-togethers and was lovingly known as ‘Muffin’ to the younger kids in the family,” Osborn wrote.

He was also a skilled skier and helped coach the Santa Fe Ski Team with his father, he wrote.

“From 2012 through 2017, Stefan and his father guided the Santa Fe Ski Team to national recognition,” Osborn wrote.

Before his death Seigmann planned to move to Flagstaff, Ariz. to “complete his education in Nursing.” He worked as a surgical technician at Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center, he wrote.

On April 18, 2018, First Judicial District Court Judge T. Glenn Ellington sentenced Freidlein to three years, with some caveats:

  • He received credit for 374 days spent in jail or on electronic monitoring pending trial
  • Ellington ordered he serve 354 days in jail and not earn good time and
  • He spend 365 days on electronic monitoring following his release from jail

View the documents on Google Drive.

Luke Griffin: Corrina Vaden — 2-24-2017

Suspect: Luke Griffin

Victim: Corrina Vaden

Non-fatal victim: Kimberley Butcher

Non-fatal victim: Elizabeth Rotter

Charges: DWI vehicular homicide, two counts of DWI great bodily harm, aggravated DWI, possession of an alcoholic beverage by a minor and open container of alcohol in a vehicle

Status: Guilty plea to DWI vehicular homicide, two counts of DWI great bodily harm

Sentence: 9 years followed by 5 years supervised probation

Date of incident: Feb. 24, 2017

Agency: State Police

Location: Sandoval County

Magistrate case number: M-45-FR-2017-00147

District case number: D-1329-CR-2017-00105

 

Summary

While driving in excess of 100 mph on Feb. 24, 2017, Luke Griffin slammed into the back of another car, killing Corrina Vaden and injuring Kimberley Butcher and Elizabeth Rotter. A blood-alcohol test showed a level of 0.22, over twice the legal limit of 0.08.

On March 16, 2017, a grand jury indicted Griffin on charges of DWI vehicular homicide, two counts of DWI great bodily harm, aggravated DWI, possession of an alcoholic beverage by a minor and possession of an open container of alcohol in a vehicle.

On Dec. 11, 2017, Griffin pleaded guilty to DWI vehicular homicide and two counts of DWI great bodily harm and, per the plea agreement accepted by District Court Judge Luis P. McDonald, he was to receive a sentence of 9 years and 122 days and be given credit for 122 days time served. None of the crimes were to be considered serious violent offenses, decreasing the amount of time required to serve before being released on probation or parole from 85 percent to 50 percent.

According to the plea, he is also to be on supervised probation for 5 years after his release. He was officially sentenced on Dec. 15, 2017 by McDonald, who, based on the plea, gave him a total sentence of 21 years, but suspended 11 years, for the 9 year sentence.

[cmtoc_table_of_contents]

The incident

Around 11 p.m., Feb. 24, 2017, State Police Officer Larry Reuter was dispatched to Interstate 25 at mile post 252 to investigate a multiple-vehicle crash. Medics were already on the scene, trying to extract two passengers and one of the drivers involved, Reuter wrote in a statement of probable cause for Griffin’s arrest.

Luke Griffin

At 11:21 p.m., Reuter arrived and saw two cars on the shoulder.

He would later learn that Corrina Vaden died and two others, Kimberley Butcher and Elizabeth Rotter, had life-threatening injuries and were taken to the University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque.

The two cars involved were a silver 2004 Audi and a 2014 Nissan, with its roof caved in and parts of the door missing. Griffin was allegedly the driver of the Audi and officers were later find him to be allegedly intoxicated.

“Emergency medical personnel were rendering aid to the driver and passenger of Nissan (Vehicle 2),” Reuter wrote. “The driver of Vehicle 2 was motionless and slumped over in the driver seat.”

One man was walking around, stating he was a witness and that Audi had been driven erratically before the crash.

Another witness, unnamed, said the Audi had been going over 100 mph to pass vehicles on the right shoulder.

“A different witness provided a verbal statement they observed Luke Griffin exit the audi after the crash and throw what appeared to be a liquor bottle over a fence,” Reuter wrote.

After Griffin was cleared by medics, Reuter found him to be stumbling, have bloodshot eyes and he allegedly smelled of alcohol. He also allegedly slurred his speech.

“I asked Luke how many alcoholic beverages he consumed and he stated he drank three beers at approximately 6 00 pm this date,” Reuter wrote.

Reuter then had Griffin do a series of field sobriety tests, which he allegedly did poorly on.

“Based on Luke’s state of intoxication and his safety the SFST’s were terminated,” Reuter wrote, referring to the field sobriety tests.

Reuter took Griffin to the State Police office for a blood-alcohol level test and found the tests were allegedly 0.22, above 0.16, twice the legal-per-se limit. He did not write what the exact measurements were. He then had a blood draw done at the State Police office.

 

The indictment and plea deal

On March 16, 2017, a grand jury indicted Griffin on charges:

  • DWI vehicular homicide
  • aggravated DWI
  • possession of an alcoholic beverage by a minor
  • possession of an open container of alcohol in a vehicle
  • two counts of DWI great bodily harm
Portrait of District Judge Louis McDonald
Judge Louis McDonald

On Dec. 11, 2017, Griffin pleaded guilty to DWI vehicular homicide and two counts of DWI great bodily harm and, per the plea agreement accepted by District Court Judge Luis McDonald, he was to receive a sentence of 9 years and 122 days and be given credit for 122 days time served. None of the crimes were to be considered serious violent offenses, decreasing the amount of time required to serve before being released on probation or parole from 85 percent to 50 percent.

According to the plea, he is also to be on supervised probation for 5 years after his release. McDonald officially sentenced him on Dec. 15, 2017. McDonald, based on the plea, gave him a total sentence of 21 years, but suspended 11 years, for the 9 year sentence.

View the court documents on Google Drive

Mansoor Karimi: Christopher Bryant, Ian Sweatt — 12-16-2016

Suspect: Mansoor Karimi

Victim: Christopher Bryant, 30

Victim: Ian Sweatt, 33

Charges: Two counts of vehicular homicide reckless driving and failure to give information and render aid

Status: Guilty of two counts of vehicular homicide reckless driving following jury trial

Sentence: 8 years (maximum of 12)

Date of incident: Dec. 16, 2016

Agency: Santa Fe Police Department

Location: Intersection of Camino Carlos Rey and Plaza Verde, Santa Fe

County: Santa Fe

Prosecutor: Kent Wahlquist

Prosecuting agency: First Judicial District Attorney’s Office

Magistrate case number: M-48-FR-2017-00001

District case number: D-101-CR-2017-00250

 

Summary

On Dec. 16, 2016, Mansoor Karimi was allegedly speeding down Camino Carlos Rey, a residential road with a speed limit of 25 mph, when he blew through a stop sign and crashed into the side of a car driven by Christopher Bryant, 30, pronouned dead at the scene.

His passenger, Ian Sweatt, 33, was transported, then pronounced dead at the hospital.

Officers estimated Karimi’s speed, in a BMW 335i, to be at least 50 mph when he went through the stop sign.

On Jan. 12, 2017, Officer James Plummer submitted an affidavit for an arrest warrant to bring Karimi into custody on two counts of vehicular homicide.

On March 23, 2017, a Santa Fe grand jury indicted Karimi on two counts of vehicular homicide and one count of failure to give information and aid at a crash.

[cmtoc_table_of_contents]

The incident

On Friday, Dec. 16, 2016, Santa Fe Police officers were dispatched to the intersection of Camino Carlos Rey and Plaza Verde for a car crash.

Mansoor Karimi

At the scene, Christopher Bryant, 30, the driver of a blue Chevy Cobalt, was pronounced dead. His passenger, Ian Sweatt, 33 was transported to the hospital by ambulance, where he was also pronounced dead, Officer James Plummer wrote in an affidavit for an arrest warrant filed on Jan. 12, 2017.

At the scene, Mansoor Karimi, 38, was sitting in a different vehicle, not related to the crash.

Plummer found that Byrant has been driving east on Plaza Verde when he was allegedly T-boned by Karimi, driving a BMW 335i.

“The evidence exhibited on the BMW showed it was going south on Camino Carlos Rey due to the front impact of the vehicle,” Plummer wrote. “After the T- Bone impact, the Chevrolet· Cobalt Traveled 251 feet uphill south of the impact site. The BMW traveled 157 feet uphill south bound on Camino Carlos Rey. With training and experience,and upon viewing both vehicles final resting position, it indicated that the BMW was traveling at a high rate of speed in excess: of the posted 25 mph speed limit, and failed to stop at the posted stop sign in a residential area.”

The point of impact was 44 feet into the intersection, which meant Karimi allegedly blew through it, going at least 50 mph, Plummer wrote.

“With training and experience, the BMW 335i could not have accelerated to a speed that would induce the damage seen at the scene of the crash in that distance if it had come to a complete stop at the stop sign,” Plummer wrote.

An unnamed witness, headed north on Camino Carlos Rey told Plummer that Karimi was allegedly driving an estimated 60-70 mph. The speed limit for the residential area was 25 mph.

“The search warrants on the vehicles confirmed the· reconstruction equations on the Chevrolet Cobalt and the documentation saved in the Airbag Control Module showed the Chevrolet Cobalt within the limits of the speed of the roadway,” Plummer wrote. “The speed of the Chevrolet Cobalt was documented on the Airbag Control Module as 7 mph at the time of the event. The energy of the crash indicates that the black BMW would have had to transfer the rest of the energy to induce the injuries ·reported.”

Later investigation would show that Bryant had a blood-alcohol content of 0.07.

Affidavit for Arrest Warrant - Karimi Mansoor

 

Court proceedings

Indictment

On March 24, 2017, a grand jury indicted Karimi on charges of:

  • Two counts of vehicular homicide (reckless driving)
  • Failure to give information and render aid at the scene of an accident

District Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer arraigned him on April 21, 2017 and released him on a $10,000 signature bond.

Missing cell phone

On Nov. 1, 2018,  Karimi’s attorney, Tom Clark, filed a motion to compel the production of the cell phones found in Bryant’s car or, in the alternative, dismiss the case against him.

Judge's portrait
District Judge Mary Marlowe-Sommer

Clark wrote there was a cell phone on Bryant’s seat but it was never entered into evidence. He attached crime scene photos to the motion that show the damaged cell phone on the seat of the car, right after he was removed from the vehicle. In another picture he attached, taken after the crash, the cell phone is missing.

No record existed as to the whereabouts of the cellphone and neither Bryant’s phone, nor Sweatt’s phone were mentioned in any police reports.

“Whether Mr. Bryant was either texting, talking, or otherwise using his telephone at the time of the accident is extremely relevant to this case,” Clark wrote. “If Mr. Bryant was using his telephone immediately prior to, or at the time of the crash, this would be exculpatory evidence for the Defendant.”

If the phones couldn’t be located, the case needed to be dismissed, he wrote.

Prosecutor Kent Wahlquist wrote in a response, Nov. 16, 2018, that the case shouldn’t be dismissed because it did not appear that law enforcement acted in bad faith in not preserving the cellphones.

On Dec. 18, 2018, Marlowe Sommer issued an order to the Santa Fe Police Department to search the cellphone. On Jan. 3, 2019, Clark filed a stipulated motion to continue the trial, that had been scheduled for Jan. 23, 2019, because discovery and the examination of evidence was ongoing.

Guilty verdict

On Feb. 18, 2020, a jury found Karimi guilty on two counts of vehicular homicide by reckless driving for the two deaths, according to jury verdict slips.

According to Phaedra Haywoood of the Santa Fe New Mexican, it took the jurors less than two hours to render a verdict following the five-day trial. Another charge, of failure to render aid, was thrown out following a directed verdict.

Following the verdict, District Judge Mary Marlowe-Sommer ordered Karimi be remanded into custody pending sentencing and to undergo a 60-day evaluation to determine a sentence. He faces a maximum sentence of 12 years.

Sentencing had initially been set for May 13, 2020, but Karimi’s attorney, Tom Clark, requested it be set for a day when in-person court hearings were allowed again.

“To conduct this sentencing by video and/or audio limits counsel’s ability to effectively advocate on the Defendant’s behalf,” Clark wrote.

In an order dated May 18, Marlowe Sommer set the sentencing hearing for 11 a.m., July 17 in Santa Fe.

“The Court anticipates that appropriate precautionary measures to safely conduct jury trials and in-person evidentiary hearings will be in place on or about July 15, 2020,” she wrote.

Sentencing

On July 17, 2020, Marlowe-Sommer sentenced Karimi to eight years in prison followed by four years of supervised probation, of a possible 12-year sentence, according to a judgement and sentence.

According to Phaedra Haywoood of the Santa Fe New Mexican, Marlowe-Sommer told Karimi, before she sentenced him, he was driving too fast, “blew through a stop sign” and that the crash was avoidable.

She sentenced Karimi to four years for the death of Sweatt and four years for the death of Bryant. He received credit for five months time served.

Motion to reconsider sentencing

Clark filed a motion to reconsider the sentence on Aug. 18, 2020. He wrote that Karimi should have been sentenced in person, as his sentence could have been so high because the video feed affected Marlowe-Sommer’s ability to “fully assess” his remorsefulness

“That the absence of any degree of humanity, in a proceeding done entirely by video and audio, affects the ability of the Court to impose a sentence consistence with a just and fair sentence,” Clark wrote.

Clark wrote in his motion that he believed Karimi’s due process rights were violated by the “impersonal, constraining, and awkward presentation of his sentencing argument by video.”

“Defendant asserts that this potentially is a reason that contributed to the sentence in this case which exceeded the seven (7) year sentence requested by the State,” Clark wrote.

Clark wrote in his motion that Mansoor also deserved to have his sentence reconsidered because prosecutors with the First Judicial District Attorney’s Office treated Mansoor differently than the defendant in a similar case. He appeared to be referring to the case of Ryan Palma, charged with vehicular homicide and leaving the scene of an accident for the death of a 20-year-old motorcyclist. A grand jury indicted Palma on charges of vehicular homicide by reckless driving, knowingly leaving the scene of an accident causing death, tampering with evidence and failure to give immediate notice of accidents.

Haywood reported on Palma’s case and that Marlowe-Sommer rejected a plea deal, July 31, 2020, where Palma would plead no contest to knowingly leaving the scene of an accident and have all the other charges dropped.

“It is at best, an arbitrary and unfair charging decision against an individual without a valid explanation,” Clark wrote. “Such non-uniform plea policies, varying drastically from one prosecutor to the next, are inherently unfair, and raise troubling questions about the charging decision in case.”

No new hearing has been set in the case.

Lawsuit

On April 22, 2019, Ian Sweatt’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit (D-101-CV-2019-01095) against General Motors, which manufactured the Chevy Cobalt that Bryant was driving, and Karimi.

According to the amended lawsuit complaint, Sweatt and Bryant were both wearing seat belts but were still killed by the crash because the Cobalt “violated several crashworthiness principles and thereby failed to protect them.”

“The injuries complained of herein occurred because the vehicle in question was not reasonably crashworthy and, thereby, created an unreasonable risk of injury and harm,” Justin Kaufman wrote in the complaint.

He listed a series of problems with the Cobalt, including that the seat belts did not prevent “adequate protection to far sided occupants,” that it failed to prevent “rollout” from the far side, the car’s side structure was “weak and inferior” and the “survival space” in the car was destroyed.

See the court documents on Google Drive or Document Cloud