Sunday, June 18, 2006
90 Days For Hate Crime
By Jeremy Pawloski
Journal Northern Bureau
SANTA FE Two young men convicted of beating James Maestas into a coma last year because he is gay will serve 90 days in jail, followed by a year of house arrest with every weekend in jail.
The two young men sentenced Friday, Isaia Medina, 20, and Gabriel Maturin, 21, were among the first in New Mexico to be convicted under the state's recently enacted "hate crimes" statute meaning the judge could have increased jail time for their crimes.
Medina and Maturin were identified by prosecutors as the main physical aggressors among a group of six people convicted in connection with Maestas' beating.
During Friday's hearing, Santa Fe District Judge Michael Vigil heard prosecutors' request for "consequences" in the form of prison time for the two men, who nearly killed Maestas.
Vigil had to weigh that request against heartfelt pleas from defense attorneys, who argued that, if their clients received prison time, they would be irrevocably damaged.
Maturin's attorney, Tom Clark, said a prison sentence would simply compound "one tragedy with another."
"My client can't survive the penitentiary," Clark said.
Vigil conceded that point.
"You two both would be ruined if I threw you in the penitentiary," Vigil said.
Medina and Maturin have each spent the past 60 days at a prison facility in Los Lunas, where they received court-ordered psychological exams.
According to prosecutors, a group of young men, including Medina and Maturin, fueled by alcohol, confronted Maestas and a group of his friends outside the Denny's on Cerrillos Road on Feb. 27, 2005.
The group asked Maestas and a friend if they were gay, and Maestas and his female friends did not want the group to join them when the left to La Quinta Inn, prosecutors have said. The group of attackers learned Maestas and his friends were staying at the inn and went there.
Medina and Maturin beat Maestas so severely that he contracted pneumonia from aspirating on his own blood and spent eight days in the hospital in a coma.
Vigil said he was impressed by how Maestas has handled himself.
Maestas, 22, who has said he had to relearn how to walk, talk and dress himself after the beating, did not appear like he wanted vengeance in an interview outside court Friday. Rather, Maestas talked about his hope that Medina and Maturin would learn something from their sentence.
Maestas said that he is not opposed to sitting down with Medina and Maturin in the future, so that they can come to some sort of understanding of one another, or even become friends. Maestas added that someday in the future, he hopes he can see Medina or Maturin in the street and be able to say hello to them.
But Maestas added that he was hopeful the two men would have been sentenced to some time in prison.