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Probation for woman who left child in hot car

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Sandra Rodriguez Miramontes was just 19 when she went to a West Side day care center where she worked on a hot August day in 2012 with her 2-year-old nephew, Gabriel, in the back seat. And forgot him for almost eight hours.

RODRIGUEZ MIRAMONTES: Faces four years of probation

RODRIGUEZ MIRAMONTES: Faces four years of probation

It was too late when she realized the child was missing. Gabriel died and Rodriguez Miramontes was indicted for child abuse resulting in death, a crime that carries a mandatory sentence of 18 years in prison.

Rodriguez Miramontes entered a plea to two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor on Jan. 22. She now has four years of probation ahead, but a conditional discharge at the end if she meets all conditions. The plea was an Alford plea, in which a defendant maintains his or her innocence, but admits that the prosecution has enough evidence for a conviction.

David Serna, her attorney, said the conviction won’t be on her record if she successfully completes probation.

“It was a terrible, horrible case,” Serna said, because, in addition to the tragedy of the boy’s death, Rodriguez Miramontes faced deportation if convicted. Her family didn’t want that. Gabriel’s mother, Rodriguez Miramontes’ sister, said it was a terrible accident. “I know she loves my son,” the mother told the Journal in an interview at the time.

Serna said he worked with immigration attorney Amber Weeks, prosecutor Alex Uballez and his supervisors, as well as District Attorney Kari Brandenburg, to structure the plea agreement to avoid deportation. Rodriguez Miramontes has lived in the United States since she was 9 years old, but is not legally in the country.

“Considering the specific facts … the interest of the community and the family, and the wishes of the victim’s family, the state agrees that it is not in the interest of justice for the defendant to be deported, and recommends against deportation,” the agreement states.

Rodriguez Miramontes is required under terms of the plea to follow the recommendations of the Children Youth and Families Department regarding visitation and counseling of children. She must complete any program ordered by probation, not consume alcohol or drugs, agree to random testing and complete 100 hours of community service with an organization aimed at preventing child car deaths. She also is required to actively seek U.S. citizenship.

The plea that ultimately was approved by 2nd Judicial District Judge Stan Whitaker had been presented to then-District Judge Judith Nakamura in October. Nakamura, now on the New Mexico Supreme Court, didn’t reject the plea outright, Serna said, but repeatedly told attorneys she had problems with whether the defendant’s conduct met definitions under the statute.

“This is a kind of ‘in the interest of justice’ kind of plea and acceptance,” Uballez told Nakamura at that hearing.

Serna said attorneys met in chambers with Whitaker to go over details of the plea beforehand and he agreed he could accept it.