A Carson City man was sentenced Monday to four years in Nevada State Prison for injuring a former Washoe Tribal officer who lost his job as a result of his disability.
Robert Michael Hernandez, 21, must serve a minimum of 18 months before he is eligible for parole. He was indicted by the Douglas County grand jury in February and pleaded guilty to eluding a police officer with bodily harm.
He was accused of leading two Washoe Tribal police officers on a high-speed chase March 12, 2007, that ended when he rammed a cruiser as he was trying to escape, injuring an officer.
The injured man, former tribal officer Joshua Rothschild, told the grand jury he was terminated from his job with the Washoe Tribe on Dec. 5 because of his injuries.
Rothschild said he had two surgeries to repair crushed vertebrae and expected permanent damage to his range of motion from the accident.
Rothschild and tribal officer Daniel Collier were on patrol March 12, 2007, in Carson City when they observed a sports utility vehicle at traveling a high rate of speed.
The vehicle accelerated from 45 mph to 80 mph as it crossed into Douglas County and they pursued it into Indian Hills.
He and Rothschild identified Hernandez as the driver who rammed the SUV into their Washoe tribal cruiser that was stopped on Agate Court.
Collier was out of the vehicle and Rothschild was behind the wheel.
Hernandez fled the scene and was arrested April 29, 2007, in Palm Springs, Calif., on separate charges.
He was returned to Douglas County Jail in January after serving a sentence at California State Prison in Avenal, Calif.
"My intent was never to endanger anybody," Hernandez said Monday. "I know I need to be charged, and I am ready to make changes regardless of what I have to do. I want to be a father."
Hernandez's attorney, Jason Woodbury, said his client had changed since the September birth of his daughter and his California incarceration.
He was sentenced to 16 months in California and earned 227 days of good time credit.
Hernandez is the stepson of Carson City Mayor Marv Teixeira who attended the sentencing with Hernandez's mother Liz Teixeira, Hernandez's infant and other family members.
Liz Teixeira testified that she divorced Hernandez's father in 1990, and that her son had been a good student and athlete until his sophomore year in high school when he began using drugs and alcohol.
He dropped out as a junior, but passed his general educational development test, Teixeira said.
"Robby pretty much cut his family out of his life," she said.
Teixeira said she started receiving weekly letters from her son while he was in California prison.
"The birth of his daughter had a real effect on Robby," she said. "He wants to get out, start over and be a father to his child. He has never had the opportunity to hold his daughter."
District Judge Michael Gibbons rejected a suggestion by Woodbury that he delay sentencing and give Hernandez a month out of custody to prove himself.
"I don't in any way intend to minimize what happened or the injuries that Officer Rothschild suffered," Woodbury said.
He said Hernandez was driving at the command of his passenger Fidel Fuentes who had a loaded, stolen weapon in the vehicle.
"There is nothing to indicate Mr. Hernandez did anything wrong other than speeding," he said.
Woodbury said Hernandez was blinded by a floodlight on the officers' vehicle and hit the cruiser because he couldn't see as he was attempting to elude capture.
Woodbury also said the tribal officers radioed Douglas County dispatch for help and were advised to terminate the chase because no backup was coming.
"Had the tribal officers terminated the chase as directed by Douglas County, Mr. Rothschild would still be driving that patrol car today," Woodbury said.
Rothschild and Collier did not attend the sentencing.
Prosecutor Michael McCormick said Hernandez needed to be in prison.
"Maybe he has changed, but the risk is too great to the community," McCormick said.
He said Hernandez had been released from a year in Carson City Jail for underage gambling shortly before the chase.
"He was driving like a maniac. It's a good thing there weren't any motorists on the highway. If he was under the influence of Mr. Fuentes who had a gun, he could have turned himself in. Instead, he went to California and committed another felony," McCormick said. "The safest place for society is to have him in prison."
McCormick said Hernandez was a member of the Eastwood Tokers, a Carson City gang.
Gibbons pointed out Hernandez was getting the benefit of a plea agreement with the district attorney's office and could have been charged with felony driving under the influence causing death or major bodily harm which carries a harsher penalty.
"The history in this case suggests he can't be trusted. He ran from the officers, he ran from the courts, he cut off an ankle bracelet," Gibbons said.