Proposal: Stiffer penalties for deadly drunk drivers

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SANTA FE (KRQE) – Eight years after he took his first life while drunk behind the wheel, Jacob Williams killed again.

The similarities between the two deadly wrecks are eerie.

In 2006, Williams was driving in Rio Communities when he plowed into a motorcycle carrying Quin Sanchez and Mary Ann Madrid. Sanchez was killed while Madrid was paralyzed.

Naeomi Sanchez remembers it well.

“We had actually gone to his services for what this guy had done,” said Naeomi Sanchez.

Little did she know that her family would be torn apart by the same man less than a decade later.

In 2008, Williams was sentenced in that deadly crash. The judge gave him the maximum allowed under a plea deal, six years in prison. But in New Mexico, a six year prison sentence rarely lasts six years. Williams was eligible to receive what’s known as “good time” at a level where, for every month he was behind bars, he received 30 days off of his sentence. As a result, Williams was out of prison on parole a little more than three years after starting his sentence.

He violated parole and spent more time behind bars, but was a free man on January 25, 2014. That’s when Williams, driving drunk yet again, crossed the center line of a state road south of Belen. Coming the other way was Daniel Sanchez, riding on his motorcycle with his daughter Magen holding onto him.

Once again, Williams slammed into a motorcycle, killing Daniel and badly hurting Magen.

“My two year old and three year old will have very few memories of their father and that’s sad,” said Naeomi Sanchez. “Yes he took a physical life of my husband, but he also took my life.”

Naeomi Sanchez says when she learned about Williams’ past, she was outraged.

“If they’re serving six years and getting off in only three,” Naeomi Sanchez said. “That’s just not right.”

“We need to send a message to them that it’s wrong and that they will be punished appropriately,” said Rep. John Zimmerman, R-Dona Ana.

Zimmerman and fellow Rep. Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque are backing a proposal to severely limit “good time” for several categories of crimes, including vehicular homicide while under the influence, first degree murder by a serious youthful offender and injury to pregnant woman by vehicle.

Instead of earning 30 days of “good time” per month, inmates convicted on those offenses could only get four days of “good time” a month. That’s the same rate for crimes like second degree murder or third degree aggravated battery.

In a fiscal impact report provided for the bill, the Corrections Department says the bill would have the impact of raising prison costs. Keeping people behind bars longer isn’t free.

Zimmerman says making the change is worth it.

“I don’t think we should be giving them good time off for those kinds of deaths that occur,” Zimmerman said.

Williams pleaded guilty to his latest vehicular homicide charge in December and faces a sentence of between four and 17 years in prison this time. Even the maximum wouldn’t be nearly enough for Naeomi Sanchez.

“My kids are still going to be in school when he gets out,” said Naeomi Sanchez. “That’s a slap in the face to me. It’s disgraceful.”

The proposal is set to get its first committee hearing on Tuesday.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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