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Sunday, July 17, 2005
Man Charged With 8th DWI Still on the Road
By Russell Max Simon
Journal Northern Bureau
SANTA FE Twenty years ago, Moises Gonzales then 22 years old was convicted of drunken driving after his pickup slammed into a compact car pulling out of Santa Fe's old Yucca Drive-In Theater on Cerrillos Road.
Three teenage girls in the car died as a result of the crash that took place on Aug. 19, 1985. It was the second DWI conviction for Gonzales, who went on to have four more by 1992.
These days, Gonzales is back on the road in Santa Fe and he's still racking up DWIs.
"I don't have a problem drinking, but when I do drink, I get caught," Gonzales said last week in a telephone interview.
Gonzales was charged with vehicular homicide in the 1985 crash that killed the three girls. But the charge was dismissed after experts testified that he couldn't have avoided the collision with the girls' Ford Escort, theorizing that the 17-year-old Santa Fe High student driving the car "darted" into traffic.
Three years ago, Gonzales got back his driver's license. Although he had six drunken-driving convictions on his record when he petitioned a judge in June 2002 for the license, he hadn't had a DWI since 1992. And he filled out a form saying that he no longer drinks alcoholic beverages and that he had undergone treatment for alcohol dependence.
But just four months later, in October 2002, he was arrested for DWI again.
An officer's report said Gonzales admitted he had just come from Owl's Liquor and there was an open miniature of schnapps on the front passenger seat of his vehicle. According to the arresting officer's statement of probable cause, breath tests indicated that Gonzales had blood alcohol content readings of 0.22 percent close to three times the legal limit of 0.08. He served eight months in jail for that case, his seventh DWI conviction.
And earlier this month, on July 1, Gonzales was arrested and charged with DWI after he swerved and nearly hit a police car on St. Francis Drive, according to police.
Gonzales said during the phone interview that his numerous DWIs were the result of bad luck.
He said he had just given a friend a ride home on the night of his most recent arrest.
"He offered me a drink, and like a dummy I accepted and got pulled over right away," Gonzales said.
Until that night, Gonzales said, he'd been sober for three years although his previous arrest was two years and eight months earlier.
According to the arresting officer's statement of probable cause for the July 1 DWI charge, Gonzales was driving south on St. Francis when he swerved and nearly hit a police car. Gonzales then turned right onto Calle Saragosa, one block from the house where he has lived with his parents all his life, and pulled over.
"As he exited the truck, two empty cans of Budweiser beer fell out of the truck and onto the ground," the officer's statement reads. "I spoke with Mr. Gonzales, who had a strong odor of alcohol on his breath, bloodshot red watery eyes, slurred speech, and Gonzales was unable to keep his balance, causing me to hold him up."
Gonzales' driver's license had been suspended for 10 years when he filed a petition in state District Court to get it back three years ago. On the standard petition form, Gonzales checked boxes stating that he "no longer consumed alcoholic beverages," and that he had "undergone treatment or counseling so that I am no longer dependent on alcohol."
Julia Belles is the attorney who, records indicate, represented the state Motor Vehicle Division during the hearing. She said last week she didn't remember Gonzales' case.
Belles estimated she sees between 300 and 400 petitions for restoration of a driver's license each year.
She said there are no set criteria for petitioning for a license restoration, except "the driver must establish good cause." When asked what constituted good cause, Belles said there was no set definition.
State District Judge James Hall granted Gonzales' petition, and he got his license back.
1st conviction at 18
Gonzales received his first DWI conviction when he was 18, in 1982. That was three years before the Cerrillos Road accident that killed 16-year-old DeAnza Allocca, and 17-year-olds Dorine Montoya and Sandra Gail Leyba. All three were students at Santa Fe High.
Oliver C de Baca, 18, was also in the car. C de Baca spent several days at St. Vincent Hospital with serious injuries.
Prosecutors hired two crash experts in developing the case against Gonzales on the three counts of vehicular homicide and one count of causing great bodily injury.
But court documents indicate the experts testified that Gonzales couldn't have avoided the accident even if he had been sober. He had at most a second and a half to react to the teenagers' car, which had pulled out of the drive-in into oncoming traffic too quickly, the witnesses maintained.
As a result, District Judge Bruce Kaufman dismissed the charges, but he ruled that Gonzales still had to face a DWI charge in Magistrate Court. Gonzales pleaded guilty and received a 90-day jail sentence.
The parents of the victims of the crash later filed a civil suit against Gonzales that resulted in Gonzales paying $12,500 to each family. They had asked for $750,000.
Subsequent DWIs in '88, '90, '91 and '92 resulted in some jail time and eventually led to Gonzales' license being revoked before it was restored in 2002.
Patricia Montoya, Dorine Montoya's mother, expressed anger and disappointment over Gonzales' driving record during a telephone interview.
"I don't think he should be driving after what happened with my daughter. I was hoping he would never drive again," she said.
Gonzales' most recent DWI case is pending review, according to assistant deputy district attorney Amy Lopez.
Gonzales said last week he's scared about the possibility of going back behind bars.
"That's my big problem, drinking and driving ... ," he said. "Obviously, my record shows that I drink and drive a lot, but for those last 10 years (before the 2002 conviction), I've been pretty much sober."