ALAMOSA — On a felony charge associated with the January 2017 death of Marcie Quintana, 24, District Judge Michael Gonzales on Thursday sentenced Angel Nieto, 32, to 12 years in prison — plus three 30-day jail terms for contempt of court.
After Judge Gonzales told Nieto his turn to talk was over, Nieto repeatedly interrupted the judge during the sentencing, so the judge three times added jail time to his sentence for contempt of court. In addition to the 12 years in prison on a charge of felony leaving the scene of an accident involving death, Nieto was sentenced to a year in the county jail on a misdemeanor protection order violation in an unrelated case. All of the sentences will run concurrently, and the judge gave Nieto credit for the time he has served already.
The judge also ordered more than $15,000 in restitution as well as the cost for a head stone for Quintana, approximately $1,500, which the family has not been able to afford. Nieto’s attorney Deputy State Public Defender James Valenti said Nieto had an insurance policy that should cover those costs.
Nieto had initially been charged with vehicular homicide for Quintana’s death but in March pleaded to a lesser charge. Quintana was a passenger in the car Nieto was driving last January when they were involved in a crash south of Alamosa. Nieto left the scene, and Quintana died after being transported to the Alamosa hospital.
Nieto told the judge on Thursday he had not left Quintana to die, loved her and had planned to marry her.
District Attorney Crista Newmyer-Olsen portrayed a different picture of Nieto as she related to the judge that following the crash witnesses said Nieto yelled at Quintana, “Bitch, get out of the car” and ran from one vehicle to another until he found someone who would take him away from the scene. He was later apprehended.
Several members of Quintana’s family spoke during the sentencing, and Nieto’s aunt and a friend spoke on his behalf. Several Quintana family members wore T-shirts with her photo on them, and they presented a poster-sized collage of photos of the mother of two.
Valenti asked for the minimum sentence for his client, four years, Nieto asked for probation, and Newmyer-Olsen and members of Quintana’s family asked for the maximum sentence on the felony charge, 12 years, which was the sentence handed down by Judge Gonzales. Nieto was not accepted for possible community corrections placement, so that was not a sentencing option.
Extra court security officers were present for the Thursday sentencing, which ended with words exchanged between Quintana family members and Nieto as he was escorted from the courtroom.
Saying he was “not happy right now” and disturbed by the Nieto sentencing — “I have never seen anything like that before” — Judge Gonzales postponed the sentencing of Amanda McDonald that had been scheduled after the Nieto hearing. He told McDonald, her attorney Valenti and DA Newmyer-Olsen that it would not be fair to go forward with her sentencing, given the way he was feeling after the previous sentencing. He rescheduled McDonald’s sentencing to May 21. McDonald is due to receive a deferred sentence on an unauthorized use of a transaction device charge and to be sentenced on a misdemeanor theft charge related to an embezzlement from the City of Alamosa while she was finance director there.
Marcie Quintana’s family speaks
Jenny Duran, Marcie Quintana’s mother, described her daughter as a loving daughter, “and I miss her. I miss her terribly.” She said she cries every day for her.
“I can never hear my daughter’s voice again. I can never see her smile.”
She said her daughter left a daughter, who is now 3 1/2 years old, who never really got to know her mother, and a son who misses her terribly. She said she has to be strong for her grandchildren.
Anthony Quintana, Marcie’s father, agreed with what her mother said adding that the whole family had been affected by her death. “Me and my daughter we were so close,” he said. “We had plans.”
Marcie’s aunt Starla Duran said Marcie lost her life because of the decisions the defendant made. She said Nieto had a criminal past and should not have been driving that day, regardless of what the roads were like. (Valenti shared state patrol reports indicating the road that night, specifically in that area, was icy.)
“He left here there to die,” she said. “He left her there and didn’t tell anybody, changed his name, ran away like a coward, and she died alone, and I hope that the rest of his life is in darkness and in pain and alone like she was, because she didn’t deserve that.”
Marcie’s son Isaiah Archuleta asked the judge to give Nieto the maximum 12 years because he left the scene and his mother died. He said he will have to grow up without her, which is hard, and his father is also not around because he is in jail.
“It’s really hard for me. I really want her here to see me grow up more than anything,” he said.
Family, friends speak on Nieto’s behalf
Lance Salazar read a letter Marcie had written to Nieto in which she talked about how much she loved him, how his love had transformed her and how thoughtful, caring and kind he had been. She had written about how she now saw beauty and had hope again.
Salazar also read a letter from Nieto’s mother who talked about how Marcie had been like a daughter to her, and she felt a loss with her death but had a strong faith in the resurrection. She said what happened was a tragic accident, and her son was a loving and caring person who would not have done anything to put his or Marcie’s lives in danger.
Salazar added, “It’s just something tragic that happened.”
Nieto’s aunt, Sharon Aguilar, said he would not have done anything to hurt Marcie because she was the love of his life, and they planned to get married.
“It was a tragic accident,” she said.
DA recommends max
Newmyer-Olsen pointed to Nieto’s record. She said this was his second felony conviction, but he had numerous prior misdemeanor convictions making him a habitual domestic violence offender and habitual drunk driving offender. He also has numerous prior violations of a restraining order, she added, and he has repeatedly failed on probation.
She said he was on probation when this happened, and testimony would have been raised at trial, had this gone to trial, that he had been drinking on the night of the incident. Witnesses would have also testified that at the scene of the crash Nieto was running around asking for rides “so that he could run away.”
Newmyer-Olsen said although Nieto in the pre-sentence report said he loved Marcie, his actions and words at the crash scene did not reflect that.
“When you love somebody, you don’t yell ‘bitch get out of the car’ when they are fatally injured.”
Defender seeks four-year sentence
Valenti said Nieto as he has known him has been a caring compassionate person who is an artist. He said Nieto has felt sorry for the loss and never intended to cause Marcie Quintana any harm. Valenti called this a tragic accident.
Nieto’s car hydroplaned on the icy road on the date of the accident, Valenti said, and a truck ran into them. The airbags did not deploy in the vehicle Nieto was driving, Valenti added.
Valenti said that Nieto had not realized how badly hurt Marcie Quintana was and never intended to leave her.
He added that this is Nieto’s second felony and he has maintained steady employment as a ranch hand, working for a solar energy company and as a truck driver.
He added that Nieto has strong family support and is involved in his church. He said most of Nieto’s problems in the past have involved alcohol use, although he also had been involved in meth and heroin.
Valenti asked for four years, the minimum for the felony charge.
Nieto addresses the court
Nieto said he was sorry for everything that happened. “It was an accident. There was nothing I could do.”
He said the day of the accident it was Marcie who wanted to go see her grandfather in Capulin.
He added that he would have taken a different route back into Alamosa but Marcie wanted to meet a friend at Atencio’s. He said at the curve by Estrella the car started hydroplaning and going into the opposite lane, and he saw another vehicle coming towards them. He said he did not know why the other vehicle did not try to avoid the crash and said the crash was that other driver’s fault.
He said all he remembered was wanting to go to Alamosa and said the people who picked him up should have taken him to the hospital but they dropped him off by the railroad tracks and he went to a house and knocked on the door.
He said that Marcie died instantly in the crash, so there was nothing he could have done for her. (Newmyer-Olsen told the judge that Marcie Quintana did not die at the scene but died after she was transported to the hospital.)
He said he did not run away from the crash. He thought Marcie was with him, he added. “I did not leave her to die,” he said. “I never wanted to kill anybody. I loved her.”
Judge issues sentence
Judge Gonzales said Nieto had been placed on probation in 13 different cases and successfully completed only four of those. The judge said Nieto had 21 misdemeanor convictions including multiple DUI and domestic violence convictions, making him a habitual offender.
In addition, between 2003 and 2017 Nieto had violated restraining orders 20 different times.
His history indicates Neito has no respect for the law, the judge said, and no respect for his ex-wife. In spite of what his attorney said about his work history, Nieto’s last payment for child support was in 2015 for $18, the judge pointed out. Nieto said his children were with him so he did not need to pay child support.
The judge told him this was not a time for discussion or debate, and it was the judge’s turn to speak.
Nieto then asked if he could take back his plea, and the judge said he could not.
The judge told Nieto to stop talking. “It’s a very simple concept,” Judge Gonzales said. “Listen to what I have to say. I listened to you respectfully. Let me talk. Don’t interrupt.”
Referring to the crash that resulted in Marcie Quintana’s death, the judge said, “I know you did not intend for this to happen, but it happened. It happened and it happened because of your actions and your behavior.”
Nieto argued with the judge that he had no control over the car and had not been drinking. He then said he wanted to take back his plea, go to trial and if necessary to the supreme court “because this isn’t right.”
The judge warned Nieto one last time to quit interrupting him, and if he did it again, he would be in contempt of court, and the judge would impose jail time.
The judge began talking about the crash and how Nieto left Quintana, and Nieto said he did not know. Judge Gonzales found him in contempt and imposed 30 days in jail.
Judge Gonzales said although Nieto might not agree with him, his perspective was that Nieto left Quintana to die. If he loved her like he said he did, he should have stayed with her and held her hand, the judge said.
“She was already gone,” Nieto interjected.
The judge then found Nieto in contempt of court again and imposed another 30 days.
When the judge said Nieto caused Quintana’s death, Nieto interrupted again and said he did not plead guilty to causing death but to leaving the scene of an accident involving death.
For the third time the judge found Nieto in contempt and added another 30 days in jail to Nieto’s sentence, totaling 90 days in jail for the contempt charges in the courtroom.
Because of his history and the nature of this case, Nieto is a danger to the community, the judge added. “I absolutely consider you a danger to the community,” he told Nieto. The only appropriate place for him is the Department of Corrections, Judge Gonzales said.