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Drunken Driver Gets 16 Years, Again

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Camille Lente was sentenced Thursday to the same 16 years she got the last time she appeared in federal court.

On this round of the case, which was indicted in 2005 based on three deaths caused by her drunken driving, the judge offered 24 pages of legal reasoning to back up his decision to impose far more prison time than the four to five years that sentencing guidelines suggest.

U.S. District Judge William “Chip” Johnson said he “remain(s) convinced that a guidelines sentence is woefully inadequate” in the case and fails to “capture the seriousness of (the) defendant’s offenses.”

Principally, he said in a 24-page opinion, the guidelines fail to adequately consider that her offense resulted in the loss of three young lives.

Federal sentencing guidelines are no longer mandatory, but judges must justify sentences that go beyond the prescribed range, either higher or lower.

Johnson’s brief hearing was the third time Lente has been sentenced. She appealed each of the prior sentences, and each time the 10th Circuit sent the case back. After the first sentencing, when Senior U.S. District Judge John Edwards Conway imposed an 18-year penalty, the case was reassigned.

A divided appeals court sent the case back to Johnson 18 months ago to address the question of why it is appropriate for Lente to receive more time than other defendants, given the federal guidelines goal of having uniform penalties in similar circumstances.

When Lente swerved across the center line on N.M. 47 on Isleta Pueblo and crashed into a Ford pickup on Dec. 2, 2005, her passenger and friend Anthony Tewahaftewa, and two passengers in a pick-up traveling in the opposite lane died on impact of blunt force trauma. Twelve-year-old Andres Murillo and 17-year Joshua Romero were killed, and the pick-up driver, Jessica Murillo, suffered a fractured leg, shoulder and ankle and spent months learning to walk again.

Lente’s blood alcohol content two hours after the crash was 0.21, over 2 1/2 times the presumed level of intoxication.

Lente’s attorneys, Ben Gonzales and Chuck McCormack, will appeal the latest sentence, as well.

They have said prosecutors have portrayed Lente as evil, unrepentant and unredeemable. Her attorneys say she had “an appalling childhood” with a history of sustained physical, sexual and emotional abuse and is almost literally haunted by her actions — her friend Tewahaftewa appears to her in nightmares and visions.

Prosecutors Shana Long and Mark Baker said in pleadings that the defense had engaged in “inflammatory descriptors” and hairsplitting and said Lente “has gone to new and creative lengths in an attempt to distract the court from recognizing the basic realities,” like flunking out of a drug education class because she was high on Oxycontin.
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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