Judge rejects plea during sentencing for deadly hit-and-run

Joseph Perea
Joseph Perea

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A driver who had agreed to a plea deal in the death of a young man was supposed to be sentenced Wednesday, but it turned into something much different.

Joseph Perea was facing sentencing for the death of 22-year-old Devon Martinez. The killing happened outside a party in August 2016 near Juan Tabo and Central.

Prosecutors say Perea got into a fight with some people, was told to leave and when he did, he broke windows, cut up a screen door and sped away in his vehicle.

They say he returned a short time later and hit Martinez with his car, pinning him up against another car, which killed him.

Perea had accepted a plea deal, pleading to voluntary manslaughter and other charges.

Wednesday, Devon’s mother, Melanie Cotter spoke to the judge, breaking down in tears.

“Still even after a year, I’m still waiting for Devon to come in the door,” she said. “Devon was my youngest of four children, but he portrayed himself to be the oldest.”

Despite Perea’s guilty plea, his attorneys argued that he is still a kid and is learning from his mistakes. They maintain he did it in self-defense and was just trying to get away, in fear he would be beaten up.

The sentencing turned into somewhat of a mini-trial. Even the judge called it an unusual situation and asked why there was not a trial if Perea’s attorney had so much to argue about.

In an unusual move, the judge threw out Perea’s plea deal.

He’s now back to facing voluntary manslaughter, homicide by vehicle, tampering with evidence, leaving the scene of an accident and other charges, which could put him in prison for 25 years in this case. Other cases are now also up in the air.

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