A jury trial scheduled for this morning (Nov. 13) in the case of Juan David Gonzalez, a convicted Taos felon who allegedly fled New Mexico State Police and fired shots at officers during a car chase in December 2016, has been postponed pending Gonzalez's acceptance of a plea agreement.
The delay marks the second time this year that the trial date has been pushed. John Lovelace, a prosecutor with the Eighth Judicial District Attorney's Office, hopes it will be the last.
Lovelace said the deal would require Gonzalez, 31, to plead guilty to the "top count" in the case in exchange for a reduced prison sentence.
The case stems from a Dec. 5, 2016 incident, in which Gonzalez and two women allegedly fled New Mexico State Police officers, who were attempting to serve a warrant for Gonzalez's arrest in the Ranchos de Taos parking lot. During an ensuing car chase, Gonzalez allegedly aimed an assault rifle out the passenger-side window of the vehicle and fired shots at the pursuing officers, striking a patrol vehicle in the windshield and front bumper, according to police reports.
Though the gunfire did not strike the officers, the district attorney's office found probable cause to charge Gonzalez with two counts of assault with intent to commit a violent felony on a peace officer, a second-degree felony, as well other crimes, including possession of a firearm by a felon, tampering with evidence and resisting and evading or obstructing an officer.
Under the terms of the plea agreement, Gonzalez would plead guilty to one of the counts of assault. The other charges may be dropped as part of the agreement.
In exchange, Gonzalez would serve 13 years with the New Mexico Department of Corrections, a dramatically reduced sentence compared to the maximum the charges carry, which, according to New Mexico state statutes, could keep the defendant incarcerated for much longer if he were convicted at trial.
Gonzalez has an extensive criminal record. According to court records, he had been wanted on multiple felony cases prior to his arrest last year, some of which carried federal charges. Lovelace said that Gonzalez has "two priors," but the attorney could not recall the nature of the charges as of a press time.
Lovelace said Gonzalez was read the terms of the plea agreement during a hearing last week in Taos District Court. Gonzalez chose to take some time to think it over and discuss alternatives with his defense attorney, but Lovelace is confident that it won't be long before an agreement is reached.
"He'll either take the plea or we'll go to trial," he said.
It is possible that the defense may counter the offer, but Lovelace said that the case against Gonzalez is strong, and that a trial would be a huge gamble for the convicted felon.
"It's one where, as a DA, I would be excited about going to trial," Lovelace said Monday morning.
No other court dates were set in Gonzalez's case as of a press time.
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