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Manzano High School alumnus sentenced on stage for DWI

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Manzano High School’s Performing Arts Center was transformed into an actual courtroom for a couple of hours Wednesday as part of the Courts to School program sponsored by the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court. (ADOLPHE PIERRE-LOUIS/JOURNAL)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Ryan Warner returned to his alma mater, Manzano High School, on Wednesday, but it was not much of a homecoming.

Warner, 31, was participating in the Courts to School program sponsored by the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court. The auditorium of the school’s Performing Arts Center was converted into an actual courtroom for a couple of hours, complete with uniformed police officers, a judge’s bench and tables for the defense and the prosecution.

It was here that this former Manzano Monarch was sentenced for his second conviction of driving while intoxicated. Before an audience of students and teachers, Warner was led away in handcuffs to the Metropolitan Detention Center, where he was booked and will serve a sentence of four days in jail. Other penalties include fines, an ignition interlock, community service, counseling and probation.

Warner estimated the arrest has cost him more than $8,000 thus far, not including increased auto insurance rates.

The Courts to School program is part of Metro Court’s education and outreach efforts to bring the courtroom experience to students.

“We want to teach the importance of making good decisions, certainly, and don’t drink and drive, clearly,” said Metro Court Judge Victor E. Valdez. “We’re here to try make a difference in kids’ lives, not necessarily to lecture them, but to give them more information so they can make good decisions.”

The students first viewed a video of a typical DWI stop by police, the administering of a field sobriety test, and how the simple act of walking a heel-to-toe straight line or performing a one-legged stand can be difficult for a person who is under the influence. The driver on the video is then seen with his hands being cuffed behind his back, arrested for DWI – in much the same manner that it unfolded for Warner.

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Manzano High School students Lesly Velasquez-Acosta, left, and Zoee McCrary, watch during the sentencing phase of a DWI case before Metropolitan Judge Victor E. Valdez. The school’s Performing Arts Center was briefly transformed into a courtroom. (ADOLPHE PIERRE-LOUIS)

Taking the podium to address both the court and students, Warner, a chef who now lives in El Paso, explained that he and his girlfriend were in Albuquerque last May visiting family and former Manzano High School friends. After a night of drinking and karaoke at a local bar, he and his girlfriend were driving back to where they had been staying when they came upon a DWI checkpoint.

Warner admitted to the questioning officer that he had been drinking, “but I lied about how much.”

He failed a field sobriety test, refused to take a breath test, enhancing potential penalties, and was taken into custody.

“I was in jail for about 15 hours, but it felt twice as long,” he said. “I had a lot of time to think and I felt guilty and ashamed and couldn’t believe that this had happened again. I thought about what I could have done to avoid this, and in the end it came down to poor decision-making.”

Valdez reminded Warner, who readily acknowledged that he not only put his own life and that of his girlfriend’s in jeopardy, but also the lives of everyone on the road that night.

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Ryan Warner is taken into custody after his sentencing for his second DWI conviction. The case was disposed of Wednesday in a makeshift courtroom at Manzano High School, as part of the Court to School program sponsored by Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court. (ADOLPHE PIERRE-LOUIS/JOURNAL)

“I thought it was really informative and sobering,” said Manzano sophomore Lesly Velasquez-Atencio. “It was really interesting to see the whole process up close. I haven’t actually begun driving yet, so it was eye-opening for sure to see someone else going through that life lesson so that hopefully others don’t have to.”

Junior Nhi Phan said “this was my first time to be in court.” Even though she does not yet drive, the lesson of don’t drink and drive was clearly imparted. “We need to think carefully about the decisions we make, because the consequences can be really bad,” she said.

Ryan Warner is taken into custody after his sentencing for his second DWI conviction. The case was disposed of Wednesday in a makeshift courtroom at Manzano High School, as part of the Court to School program sponsored by Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court.

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