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BREAKING NEWS

Families plead for more, or less, prison time

By Staff | Feb 4, 2008

Family members of Marcos Gonzalez of Winnebago, convicted of killing another man on a first-degree manslaughter charge, and the family of Miguel Angel Lopez, the murder victim, had their day in court last week Wednesday.

Family members of both men were given the opportunity to speak in Faribault County District Court and tell Judge Douglas Richards why they thought Gonzalez should be sentenced to at least the 86 months in prison previously agreed on, or less than that.

Lawyers for both sides were scheduled to give final arguments about the sentencing in court on Friday afternoon, with Judge Richards giving the final sentencing at that time as well.

(That Friday hearing was scheduled to occur after the Register’s deadline for this week’s issue, and will be reported on in next week’s issue.)

Gonzalez’s attorney, Peggy Rockow of Albert Lea, had filed a motion in court on Wednesday that asked the court to depart from the sentencing guidelines and issue a more lenient sentence.

Rockow cited two issues that she wished the court to consider as a basis for the departure from the guidelines. One was that there was a mitigating factor presented that the victim was actually the aggressor, and two, the amenability of Marcos Gonzalez to probation.

Family members of the victim, Lopez, disagreed. Both Lopez’ father, Catarino Lopez, and Lopez common law wife, Natalia Sierra, spoke to the court.

Lopez said that he asked the court for justice. “I ask he (Gonzalez) receive the maximum penalty,” Lopez said. “Because what he did was premeditated, acted on after planning, and he took advantage of the situation.”

Lopez and all of the witnesses spoke in Spanish and their testimony was translated to English. All of the proceedings in English were also translated into Spanish.

Lopez said he knew all four of the men involved in the fighting that day. He also said he asked Gonzalez several times the day before why he wanted to come to his house to commit aggression. “He (Gonzalez) said that there was no problem,” Lopez said. But Lopez said that Gonzalez had been drinking heavily.

“I don’t understand why this happened, why this person here present took the life of my son,” Lopez said. “It was very, very violent, a planned crime.”

“It is beyond expressing how bad it has been on us,” he added.

Natalia Sierra hesitated before taking the stand and telling the court she too wanted justice. “It has affected all of us,” she said, “It has affected me physically and emotionally.”

“I have three little children, three girls, and every day, when they get up, not a day goes by when they ask when daddy is coming home,” she said.

Sierra asked the judge “not to pay attention to what was said about my husband, he was a good person.”

“I’m just requesting justice, but because my husband was not an American citizen, I still put my trust that justice will take place.”

Faribault County Prosecuting Attorney Brian Roverud told the judge that it was obvious that the victim’s family was not happy with this outcome, meaning the agreement of the 86 month sentence, and wanted it higher.

Marcos Gonzalez’s family indicated that the 86 month proposed sentence would be too much.

Both Gonzalez’s wife and father also spoke to the court through the interpreter.

Teofilo Gonzalez, his father, spoke about how his son is a good person, a good worker, and a good father.

“As a child he was an organized person, and a hard worker,” Gonzalez said. “He was not a bad person like they say, and I don’t say that just because he is my son.”

He said that the sentence proposed was not fair for his son, Marcos, who has never had any problems before, and has never been violent.

“I promise, my son will never, ever commit a crime like this one or any other crime. My son understands, and is easy to be guided.”

Magdalena Gonzalez, Marcos’ wife, took the stand and said she has known him for eight years, as they went to school in Arkansas together before she moved to Winnebago.

They have been together for five years, and have two sons, she said. “It is very, very sad for them,” she said. “They need him and ask for him. The oldest one cries for him, and the youngest one looks at his clothes.”

She said Gonzalez “for me, is a very good husband, and father.” She described how they both worked hard and had bought the trailer house from her parents, and now had bought a home. She added that their dream was to have a home and send their boys to college.

Mrs. Gonzalez also said that her husband has never been violent in the past. She described how he helped others, and how they had even had the victim’s brother and family living with them for several months when they first came to Minnesota.

“And I feel, like, why did this happen, he is not like that at all. It has changed our lives forever, and our children’s lives too.”