Eagle County man, 20, sentenced to 6 years | VailDaily.com

Eagle County man, 20, sentenced to 6 years

Eduardo Espain-Mendoza, 20, has had numerous run-ins with the law since 2012, but on Tuesday he faced his first sentencing as an adult for several charges he accrued in 2022. District Judge Rachel Olguin-Fresquez sentenced Espain-Mendoza to six years in the department of corrections.

On March 13, Espain-Mendoza was charged with harassment after allegedly shoving and kicking another person. Joseph Kirwan, the chief deputy district attorney for the 5th Judicial District, read the last sentence of the statement made by Eagle County Sheriff’s Office deputies on March 13 at Tuesday’s sentencing. 

“It says, when he feels agitated and frustrated, he tends to act implausibly by making poor choices he later regrets,” Kirwan said. 

On March 23, Espain-Mendoza collected three charges: theft after allegedly shoplifting from the Nottingham Road 7-Eleven in Avon, along with possession of a controlled substance and driving under restraint. Kirwan said Espain-Mendoza did not have much remorse for his actions. 

“He admitted he was probably a bit high while driving his vehicle and was feeling a little excited because he was planning to go meet a girl,” Kirwan said. “He admitted he made a poor decision to drive and shoplift.”

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On April 7, Espain-Mendoza got into an argument with his stepfather, which escalated, prompting police intervention. That day, Espain-Mendoza collected five charges: a felony for menacing with a real or simulated weapon, an assault charge, a harassment charge for insults, taunts and challenges made, obstructing a peace officer, and possessing and consuming alcohol under the age of 21. 

Kirwan said following Espain-Mendoza’s April 7 case, the defendant was expected to appear at pre-trial testing, which he failed to do. 

In July, Espain-Mendoza’s infractions continued. In Tuesday’s sentencing, Kirwan informed the court that the defendant, alongside another man, broke into a home and assaulted its resident. The chief deputy spoke on Espain-Mendoza’s police statement. 

“He was hanging out with the wrong people, consuming drugs, and doing what he should not have been doing,” Kirwan said. “He said there was a little altercation, it was not his problem, but he decided to start handling it and he should not have.”

Kirwan said that when he read Espain-Mendoza’s family history, it stuck out to him that the defendant indicated that he “has a difficult time being told what to do.” Kirwan said that, given Espain-Mendoza’s record, he is not confident in Espain-Mendoza’s ability to change his behavior without the help of community corrections. 

Prior to Tuesday’s sentencing, Espain-Mendoza had been accepted to the Advantage Treatment Center Inc. community corrections facility in Montrose. Kirwan said there, Espain-Mendoza can be given his “last shot” to turn around the trajectory of the remainder of his adulthood. Kirwan said that Espain-Mendoza, who was expelled from high school in the 10th grade and never returned to school, could work toward getting his GED, receive substance-abuse-related treatment and work toward proving his capability of rejoining the community all within correctional facilities. 

Kirwan asked the court to impose Espain-Mendoza’s misdemeanor sentences concurrently with his two felony sentences. The first felony, menacing a real or simulated weapon, which Espain-Mendoza was charged with on April 7, has a maximum sentence of 18 months. The second, which addresses Espain-Mendoza’s July break-in and assault charge, has a maximum sentence of six years, Kirwan explained. 

“The people would ask the court to (sentence Espain-Mendoza) to six years in community corrections,” Kirwan said.

Public defender Carolin Whippo argued for Espain-Mendoza’s ability to serve his sentence on probation instead of in the recommended community corrections facility in Montrose. 

“I think the court is aware that the brain of a juvenile is developing until they’re 25,” Whippo said. “Mr. Espain-Mendoza is very young and these are his first felony convictions as an adult. He wants the opportunity to (change), but to do that out in the community, with his family.”

Whippo said that should Espain-Mendoza be granted probation, he would go back to live with his family in Edwards and enter the workforce with the supervision of his uncle, doing landscaping. 

“He wants the opportunity to show that he is moving past his past,” Whippo said. “I think that he deserves the opportunity to show that as he continues to mature and grow, he’ll learn from his mistakes.”

Espain-Mendoza said that given support, he believes in his potential to turn his behaviors around.

“I’d like to see myself in the future do better,” Espain-Mendoza said. “Maintain my sobriety and be successful, I know I’m capable of doing that.”

The defendant’s attorney noted that with his family around, Espain-Mendoza will not only feel more support but will be held accountable in a different way than in community corrections.

“These are the people that he wants to make proud of him and to prove to that he can be a better person than what these cases indicate to the court,” Whippo said. “So, we are asking for probation to give him that opportunity.”

Despite Whippo’s argument that Espain-Mendoza has not yet had the chance to change his behavior through probation as an adult, Olguin-Fresquez noted that Tuesday’s sentencing was not far from when Espain-Mendoza was given the opportunity of probation and failed to comply with its conditions. Even on recent bond conditions, there’s not a good indication that Espain-Mendoza would be successful in a less-restrictive setting, the judge said.

“I think community corrections is the most appropriate location,” Olguin-Fresquez said. 

Olguin-Fresquez said that in community corrections, Espain-Mendoza has the opportunity, based on his behavior, to be integrated back into the community under certain restrictions.

“But that’s up to you,” Olguin-Fresquez said to Espain-Mendoza. “That’s up to how well you do, how well you can fly, OK?”

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