A Durango man who pistol-whipped another man before fleeing to Grand Junction where he murdered his brother was sentenced Friday to six years in prison for the assault.
The six years will be tacked on to the 25 years that Joshua Baltazar Gallegos received in Mesa County for killing his brother.
At a sentencing hearing Thursday, Gallegos said he is in no position to ask for any favors from the court. He acknowledged he hasn’t been a productive member of society, and he said his actions took away his brother’s life and took himself away from his family.
“I do take responsibility for my actions,” Gallegos said, wearing shackles and a jail-issued jumpsuit. “… Today, all I ask for is mercy.”
The assault occurred Dec. 19, 2019, at the End-O-Day Motel at 350 East Eighth Ave. in Durango. Gallegos fled to Grand Junction, where 11 days later he killed his brother, according to court testimony.
Under terms of a plea agreement, Gallegos was facing a maximum of six years in prison for felony assault. Sixth Judicial District Judge Suzanne Carlson had the option of imposing a prison term that ran concurrent or consecutive with his homicide sentence.
Durango public defender Kellan Schmelz asked that whatever prison sentence is imposed, it be served at the same time as his 25-year sentence.
Schmelz argued that Gallegos had a turbulent upbringing. But he achieved good grades in school and became involved with athletics. His life took a turn when he began using drugs and didn’t go to college, Schmelz said, but since being arrested, Gallegos has done a 180.
A pastor said Gallegos had shown more concern for his family than himself and has become a voracious reader. An Alcoholics Anonymous counselor said Gallegos is a “capable, kind and trusting person.”
Schmelz asked Carlson to base her sentencing decision on who Gallegos has become, not who he was.
But Appellate Deputy District Attorney Sean Murray asked Carlson to impose the maximum possible penalty in accordance with the plea agreement and make it run consecutive to his homicide sentence.
Murray said Gallegos’ street name was “Ruthless,” and he remains a threat to the community. Friends and new acquaintances get to see Gallegos on his best days, but prosecutors must consider who he is on his worst days, Murray said.
“Anything other than six years is letting down this community,” Murray said.
Carlson called the assault an “extremely serious offense” that reminded her of a mob movie.
The assault and the homicide were two completely separate incidents, and it would send the wrong message to the community to allow someone to serve one sentence on top of another for two different crimes, she said.
Carlson said she was surprised the plea agreement didn’t call for more time in jail.
“As far as I can tell, Mr. Gallegos needs to be locked up for as long as possible.”