Rafael Orozco was sentenced to 14 years in prison on Monday (Sept. 14) after spending the better part of the last decade in and out of the Taos County jail or on the run from law enforcement.
At a probation revocation sentencing hearing held remotely over Google Hangouts, Taos District Court Judge Jeff Shannon ordered the maximum sentence imposed by a plea agreement Orozco violated in October 2019 after absconding from Delancey Street, a drug treatment facility on San Juan Pueblo.
The plea deal offered Orozco the chance to complete two years at the facility in exchange for pleading guilty to three felonies filed in three separate cases: battery upon a healthcare worker, a fourth-degree felony filed in 2016, when he was accused of battering his girlfriend, newborn baby and a healthcare worker at Holy Cross Medical Center; aggravated battery upon a peace officer, when Orozco attacked a female jailer in 2017; and aggravated battery, for hitting another detainee roughly 40 times in the head in March at the Taos County jail.
Before he was brought back to the jail in April, Orozco, 26, picked up two additional cases charging him with violent felonies – one for allegedly kidnapping and raping a woman in Española and another on suspicion of kicking a Taos County Sheriff's deputy in the head during his arrest. Both cases are still pending.
"Mr. Orozco has earned his sentence and deserves immediate shipment to the department of corrections," said Cosme Ripol, who was hired as a deputy district attorney at the 8th Judicial District Attorney's Office in August.
Orozco's prison sentence was extended from an original six years under the New Mexico Habitual Offender statute, which can lengthen a sentence by an additional four years for every prior felony conviction an offender has on his or her record in the last 10 years. Orozco has three prior felonies, two of which made the time frame. Just under five months will be deducted from his sentence for time he has served this year in the county jail awaiting sentencing.
Orozco's attorney, Art Bustos, asked Judge Shannon to consider instead sentencing Orozco to a statutory minimum sentence of four years. He asked whether Ripol was aware that Orozco suffered from sexual abuse he endured as a child.
"I am not here to help him," Ripol said. "I am here to punish him."
Shannon said that sending Orozco to prison was the only way he felt he could protect the community and ensure Orozco received the services he needs.
Orozco, who appeared on a video from the Central New Mexico Correctional Facility, said he would "be out some day" and would become "somebody worse" in prison, where he said drugs were more readily available than "on the streets."
"I'll see you guys in a couple years," he said, in what the district attorney's office described in a press release this week as a "thinly veiled threat."
Shannon, who served for seven and a half years in Taos Magistrate Court before being appointed to the district court last year, said Orozco was the first defendant he had ever sent to prison.
Court records show that Orozco appeared before Shannon for the first time in September 2012, when he was 18, in a case charging him with multiple counts of assault and battery on a peace officer. Over the next eight years, Orozco picked up ten more criminal cases, six alleging other violent crimes.
Ripol said the state had shown Orozco "immense forbearance" and "immense patience" before recommending on Monday he be sent to prison.