State appeals court rejects kidnapper’s claims of constitutional violation

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Herrera-Castro

SPOKANE — A state appeals court has denied the appeal of a Mattawa man, convicted in 2007 of kidnapping four members of the same family, that contended the state had illegitimately added several years to his imprisonment when it amended an error in his original sentence.

Court documents indicate that in July 2007, Alejandro Herrera-Castro entered a trailer where four members of the Suarez family lived together, and held them at gunpoint while ordering one member to exit the residence with him. When she refused, Herrera-Castro pulled her from the trailer and threatened to shoot anyone who got in his way. Once outside, a member of the Mattawa Police Department was able to tase Herrera-Castro and take him into custody.

Herrera-Castro was convicted in October 2018 of one count of second degree kidnapping, three counts of first degree kidnapping, four counts of second degree assault and one count of harassment, threats to kill, court documents show. Firearm enhancements were imposed for all but the harassment count.

The original sentence indicated that prison sentences for these various counts would run concurrently, which would have the effect of limiting Herrera-Castro’s prison sentence to that of the most significant charge, as opposed to adding all the sentences together.

However, in 2016, a review by the state concluded that the judgment and sentence were invalid, citing a statute that requires sentences regarding firearm enhancements to run consecutively, rather than concurrently. This amended Herrera-Castro’s total prison sentence to 524 months, or just under 44 years.

Herrera-Castro opposed the amendment, arguing that he had been denied a constitutional right to speak before the trial court that oversaw the amended sentencing. He further argued that the state had violated his statutory rights with an excessive court fee.

A three-judge panel on the Division III Court of Appeals denied Herrera-Castro’s assertion that his constitutional right to speak on his behalf had been violated, stating that the right does not extend to a hearing that corrects an earlier sentence. The court did find that the original sentence had levied an outsized court fee, and reduced it to the statutory maximum of $250.

Herrera-Castro also argued that his lawyer had not adequately represented him, arguing that his counsel could have requested an exceptional sentence that would have allowed for concurrent prison terms. The court denied this claim, arguing that the latest trial court which amended the original sentence was not the correct venue for this legal argument, and that Herrera-Castro had been adequately represented.

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