FAYETTEVILLE -- A jury Thursday afternoon found Giovanni Vasquez-Sanchez guilty of accomplice to first-degree murder and unlawful discharge of a firearm from a vehicle. He was sentenced to 27 years in prison.
Vasquez-Sanchez, 21, was the driver in a fatal drive-by shooting April 11, 2015, in Springdale. A passenger, Rodolfo Alberto Martinez, shot and killed Jimmy Rodriguez, 20, who was standing in front of a house on Savage Street.
Lesser included offense
In some cases a person is charged with breaking a law that covers or includes two separate crimes, with one being more serious than the other. The second is generally called a lesser included offense.
Vasquez-Sanchez spent more than an hour on the witness stand, testifying he didn't know Martinez had a gun nor he was going to shoot at anyone.
Prosecutor Matt Durrett told jurors in his closing argument Vasquez-Sanchez knew what was going to happen.
"He drove that car over there so Rodolfo Martinez could kill somebody," Durrett said. "They were going to take out someone they thought was in another gang."
Vasquez-Sanchez was identified by Eric Rodriguez, Jimmy's cousin, as the driver of the car with three teenage male passengers. Rodriguez said Wednesday he took cover when the shooting started.
Vasquez-Sanchez was a "victim of an impulse shooting" by Martinez, his attorney, Erwin Davis, told jurors.
"There's no proof there was a plan afoot to murder someone," Davis said. "Had he not driven down that street, Jimmy Rodriguez would still be with us today and he would not be here (in court)."
Martinez was convicted in August 2017 of capital murder, two counts of unlawful discharge of a firearm from a vehicle and three counts of committing a terroristic act. Martinez was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The jury took about two hours to find Vasquez-Sanchez guilty. Prosecutors sought a conviction for accomplice to capital murder, which would have come with a mandatory sentence of life without parole. Accomplice to first-degree murder is a lesser included charge and punishable by 10 to 40 years or life in prison.
Unlawful discharge of a firearm from a vehicle is also punishable by 10 to 40 years or life in prison.
The jury deliberated another half an hour before returning sentencing verdicts of 17 years on the murder charge and 10 years on the gun charge.
Washington County Circuit Judge Mark Lindsay sentenced Vasquez-Sanchez immediately and ordered the sentences to run consecutively.
"He has expressed no sorrow for what he did. He has expressed no sympathy for the victim or his family and, again, this is a gang-related situation," Lindsay said at sentencing. "I believe Mr. Vasquez' testimony and his actions in this case indicate that he is deeply rooted in it and is not sorry about it to this point, so I believe that a significant amount of time is necessary for Mr. Vasquez to be rehabilitated."
Vasquez-Sanchez will be given credit for more than three years served at the Washington County jail awaiting trial. He was arrested April 13, 2015, just a few days before his 18th birthday.
"That's a good bit of time that he'll be off the streets, which is a good thing considering what he did," Durrett said after sentencing. "His actions led to the death of a person who did nothing wrong but show up at an address on a Saturday morning. Any time you can get somebody locked up who engages in those behaviors, it's a good day."
Durrett praised the work of Springdale police in solving the case and the jury for their thoughtful verdicts. Durrett said it will be about 15 years before Vasquez-Sanchez is first eligible for parole.
Another passenger, Jose Andrew Delatorre, pleaded guilty in September 2017 to accomplice to second-degree murder. Lindsay sentenced Delatorre to 20 years. He was given credit for 891 days of jail time served.
Martinez and Delatorre were 21 when they were convicted.
The other person in the car was a 13-year-old juvenile. State law prohibits the release of information about juvenile arrest records and court proceedings.
Durrett said the convictions of Vasquez-Sanchez, Martinez and Delatorre are a significant win in Springdale's battle against gangs.
"There was a rash of this going on at the time and three of those people who were involved in gang activity aren't doing it anymore because they're in the Department of Correction and that's always a good thing," Durrett said. "I mean it's never good that a senseless murder has to happen before you can get people off the street but, nevertheless, when you've got three violent people who are going to engage in this type of behavior -- when they're not driving around in our neighborhoods -- then I think people can sleep a little bit better."
NW News on 08/24/2018
Print Headline: Vasquez-Sanchez guilty in Springdale gang shooting