Over Defense Attorney Objections, Defendant Pleads Guilty to Reduce Sentence by 5 Years

By Marilin Ayon

RIVERSIDE, CA—  Despite the opposition by his public defender here Tuesday in Riverside County Superior Court, Santiago Delgado Espinoza pleaded guilty to a strike offense, accepting a disposition that lowers his sentence from seven years and four months to only two years in state prison.

Espinoza was charged with six counts—filed on May 3, 2018— for evading arrest and resisting his detention by police officers from a Dec. 25, 2017, incident. The four felonies include evading arrest, resisting or deterring officer, exhibiting a weapon at a peace officer, and using force or violence on peace officer.

These charges were accompanied by three additional misdemeanor counts, including the defendant’s willful resistance or obstruction of his arrest. 

Espinoza pleaded guilty to all charges, despite opposition by Assistant Public Defender Joseph Cavanaugh.

Espinoza came into court confident of his plea, having signed a Felony Plea Form and a Violation of Probation Form that formalized his disposition.

“Did you initially sign [these] form[s] understanding each right you are giving up?” asked Judge Burke Strunsky of the defendant.

“Yes,” answered Espinoza with the help of the court’s certified interpreter. Despite Judge Strunsky’s questioning to verify the defendant’s understanding of the court’s decision, Espinoza continued to assure the court that he was sure of his plea.

Nevertheless, the judge continued to inform the defendant of the possible consequences of his plea, reminding him that, if he was not a citizen, “these convictions will account for deportation, exclusion or eviction from the United States, and denial of naturalization pursuant to federal law.”

However, Espinoza deferred Judge Strunsky’s offer of seeking advice from an immigration attorney by responding with a decisive “no.”

Espinoza likewise responded negatively when the judge asked him, “Sir, did anybody offer you anything that’s not in this paperwork to get you to plead guilty?”

Upon Espinoza’s asserted plea, Judge Strunsky explained to him that “the total sentence you are pleading guilty to is seven years and four months although you negotiated a resolution for two years.”

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