Juan Carlos Vasquez-Orozco was convicted last month of second-degree murder for the killing of El Dorado Sheriff Deputy Brian Ishmael that took place in October 2019. Ishamel was responding to a call at an illegal marijuana farm, when Vasquez shot Ismael four times and wounded another deputy, Josh Tasabia. Vasquez will serve 15 years to life, the minimum for the crime in California. The minimum sentence has some outraged, including the El Dorado County District Attorney who heavily criticized the decision.
District Attorney Vern Pierson criticized the decision made by Sacramento Superior Court Judge Sharon Lueras and also blamed recent legislation from the state government that he said “eroded” accountability for violent crimes such as this one. Pierson said, “It no longer matters whether you use a gun or how many people you harm or how many prior violent felonies you have committed”. Pierson had been the prosecutor on the case and sought 40 years to life which is the maximum sentence. Pierson also made a reference to Senate Bill 620. The bill, which took effect in 2018, gave judges more discretion in sentencing crimes. Pierson says that this bill is responsible for the sentence given out by Judge Lueras.
Lueras defended her decision saying that Vasquez does not pose a serious threat and does not have any known prior criminal history and was 20 years old at the time of the shooting. She also said that Vasquez was deceived by the owner of the marijuana farm he was on. The owner, Christopher Ross, called 911 saying men were stealing from the property but later told authorities he knew Vasquez and another individual were tending the property. Pierson says that Vasquez has failed to show any remorse for his crimes.
Prior to SB 620, a defendant found guilty of murder would face a mandatory 25-year addition to their sentence if they are found guilty with an enhancement of discharging a firearm. Pierson said, “Over the last several years the Legislature has eroded these efforts (from the 1990s), greatly reduced accountability for violent crime and repeat offenders and given the courts free hand to strike sentencing enhancements. Across the state we are seeing the negative effect of these changes as victim’s rights are ignored and violent crime increases.” The author of SB 620, Democrat State Senator Steven Bradford, argued that people of color were being negatively impacted by sentencing laws. The bill was signed into law by then-Governor Jerry Brown.
SB 620 is just another example of how liberal criminal justice policies have damaged this state. For years, the murder of an officer would levy a punishment of the maximum amount. But this bill has allowed activists judges to disregard the recommendations of prosecutors and give lenient sentences to criminals who have committed violent acts such as the murder of a sheriff deputy.
Also convicted in this case was Vasquez’s associate Ramiro Bravo Morales and the farm owner Christopher Ross. Ross plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to 11 years and eight months. Morales was convicted of being an accesory after the fat and also plead guilty to conspiracy to manufacture marijuana.
Photo Cred: Mountain Democrat