Thursday, September 24, 2020

Moses Lake man appeals sentence

Staff Writer | February 13, 2020 11:27 PM

EPHRATA — A Moses Lake man has filed to appeal a nearly nine-and-a-half-year prison sentence after being convicted at the end of January for accidentally shooting his girlfriend in the back.

Jose Jesus Espinoza Jr., 29, was sentenced Jan. 29 to 113 months in prison after a trial jury found him guilty of third-degree domestic violence assault while armed with a deadly weapon, first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm, and two counts of witness tampering.

On the evening of July 13, 2019, Espinoza was reportedly moving a pile of clothes off of the floor when a pistol left in the clothes fired accidentally, shooting his girlfriend Blanca Perez in the back, according to court documents. Espinoza drove Perez to Samaritan Hospital, entered the main doors with her and began to yell for help.

When he initially saw no one, Espinoza reportedly pulled the fire alarm, hoping to get the attention of medical staff, before loading Perez into a wheelchair. When a security guard came to investigate and discovered the couple, they were escorted, reportedly still yelling for help, to the emergency ward.

Perez reportedly told police that she and Espinoza had been in an argument earlier in the day but believed the shooting to be accidental.

Espinoza, who had been previously convicted of first-degree robbery in 2007 after having been tried as an adult at 16 years old, was not legally allowed to own a firearm.

Charges of witness tampering were added for incidents in early September, though prosecutors did not note which witnesses they were referring to in court documents, with which defense counsel took issue.

Espinoza’s lawyers had also argued that the charges against their client were disproportionate, pointing to the 2018 case of Deputy Jose Rivera. Rivera admitted to pointing a gun at his wife while she was with their 4-month-old toddler, not realizing it was loaded, and shooting her in the arm, according to court documents. Rivera’s wife also underwent open-heart surgery to remove the bullet.

Rivera did not face charges of domestic violence or an aggravator of armed with a deadly weapon, was allowed by Sheriff Tom Jones to remain on the force and did not get jail time, instead only having to serve 48 hours of community service.

“The community service allowed was for the Deputy that shot his wife by accident to teach gun safety!” attorneys wrote.

Espinoza’s lawyers argued that with little factual difference between the cases, Rivera’s third-degree assault charge was dismissed by the court, while Espinoza was convicted.

Defense attorneys did acknowledge that Espinoza has a criminal background that affected the standard sentencing range, while Rivera did not.

Counsel also questioned why officers were asked to testify on behalf of the victim, recalling what Perez told them at the hospital, but the victim was not asked to affirm those statements.

For these and other reasons, Espinoza’s lawyers sought to appeal the trial court’s decision, according to court documents.