Man sentenced for assault

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— During his sentencing Thursday, 35-year-old Jerome Velasquez of Idaho Springs, Idaho, told Senior District Judge Charles Buss that he takes full responsibility for an accident in January 2005 that almost killed 27-year-old Jacob Martinez of Craig.

"I never intended on hurting others or myself. I could never tell Mr. Martinez enough how sorry I am. These changes in both our lives are my fault. I understand it's all my fault. I will, for the rest of my life, pay for this mistake," Velasquez said.

Despite Velasquez's tearful statements and requests for mercy, Buss disagreed with recommendations for probation and Martinez's suggestions that Velasquez serve no jail time. Instead, he gave Velasquez three years in prison, the maximum sentence for a Class 5 felony.

"You're extraordinarily forgiving of Mr. Velasquez," Buss told Martinez. "However, this accident was the result of (Velasquez's) total disregard for both his safety and the safety of other people on the road. It wasn't a bit of mere carelessness."

Buss also sentenced Vela-squez to two years probation and ordered him to pay more than $200,000 in restitution.

Velasquez was convicted of felony vehicular assault in February.

Velasquez caused a head-on collision on U.S. Highway 40 about four miles west of Steamboat Springs after he attempted to pass a semi truck on snow-packed roads. His car collided with Martinez's car.

Both men were seriously injured as a result of the accident.

More than a year later, both men testified about their suffering.

Martinez told Buss that the accident broke more than 20 bones, including his pelvis, both legs and both feet. Martinez said he essentially has no ankle and will continue to undergo reconstructive surgery.

Velasquez said he broke both of his arms, a leg, his pelvis and his jaw.

Martinez told Buss that he did not think Velasquez would benefit from prison time, and he instead encouraged Buss to consider allowing Velasquez to get involved in youth education programs as part of his punishment.

Assistant District Attorney Kerry St. James said he was concerned about Velasquez's past driving and criminal records, which include a felony drug conviction and a reckless endangerment conviction.

"My charge is to represent not only Mr. Martinez's best interests, but those of the residents of Routt County. The injuries (Martinez) suffered are monumental. It is amazing he was so severely injured and still lived," St. James.

"I am asking you put (Velasquez) in prison. He certainly deserves it. His behavior was outrageous; there should be consequences to his actions."

Before Buss sentenced Velas-quez, Velasquez's wife, Selena, pleaded with the judge not to send her husband to prison. She said she could not provide for the couple's two children without her husband's income.

"The (Martinez) family is not the only family who has suffered. It was an accident. It was not intentional. I can't support my kids on my own. We can't make it. We're maxed on everything, and we have nothing," she said.

After the sentencing, Velasquez indicated that he plans to appeal Buss' ruling.

-- To reach Alexis DeLaCruz, call 871-4234 or e-mail adelacruz@steamboatpilot.com

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