TWIN FALLS • A Twin Falls judge had harsh words for a man convicted of attacking another man with a machete during his sentencing hearing Monday.
Martin Hernandez-Vargas continues to deny his guilt and has a right to do so, said Twin Falls County 5th District Judge Randy Stoker. But Hernandez-Vargas minimized his crime and flat-out attempted to deceive the court during sentencing and the jury during the trial, Stoker said.
Stoker also said it is clear Hernandez-Vargas has problems with violence and alcohol.
“This is one of the worst aggravated battery cases I’ve seen in my time as a judge in this community,” Stoker said.
Stoker said he wanted to send a message to Hernandez-Vargas and the community, sentencing him to eight to 20 years in prison.
Hernandez-Vargas was first charged after Twin Falls County sheriff’s deputies responded in May to a call about a disturbance at an address south of Kimberly. They found a 53-year-old man with traumatic injuries to his head and face. According to their report, the victim’s injuries — including an apparent broken jaw and a large cut — appeared to be caused by a sharp weapon.
The victim in the case was forced to stop working at the dairy where he was employed for more than 15 years and move to Arizona to live with family. That’s because it became too difficult to manage his injuries and diabetes on his own, Twin Falls County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Stan Holloway said during Monday’s hearing.
Holloway said the victim’s injuries were so bad that the prosecutor’s office arranged to have an autopsy done, but was able to cancel after the victim’s “miraculous” recovery.
Holloway suggested that Hernandez-Vargas spend 12 to 30 years in prison and pay a substantial amount of restitution.
“This defendant blames anyone and everyone other than himself for the injuries suffered by (the victim),” Holloway said.
Defense attorney Ben Andersen argued that Hernandez-Vargas should serve three to 12 years in prison and be recommended for the therapeutic community program. He also asked Stoker to consider retaining jurisdiction in the case for a year while Hernandez-Vargas participated in a therapeutic community program to see if he would be a candidate for probation in a year.
Andersen said he recognized the sentence should not be too short, but said it should also not be too long.
“In looking at retribution, the harsher punishment is more appropriate where the victim is vulnerable and totally innocent,” he said.
Andersen pointed out that the victim admitted to pushing Hernandez-Vargas first during their fight, that neither man clearly remembered what happened that night, and that both were intoxicated.
Hernandez-Vargas also spoke at the hearing. He repeatedly said he never planned nor expected the incident to happen or to escalate.
“I started praying every single day asking to God to please allow me to remember what happened,” he said.
Hernandez-Vargas told the court Monday that he began to remember more details after the trial was over, and proceeded to tell a different story of the events than he testified to in court.
“Right now I feel so confused because I don’t understand how it’s possible everyone believed him and not me,” he said. “I understand he got injured but I am telling the truth. I want to believe in truth and justice.”
After Hernandez-Vargas spoke, Stoker said he did not believe the entire truth about what happened during the May incident came out during the trial, but that he believed the evidence in the case supports the guilty verdict.
“I’m convinced it wasn’t a self-defense case by any stretch of the imagination,” he said.