Dickinson man sentenced in New Year's Day hit and run
In an emotional and lengthy hearing Monday, the mother of Rudy Garcia, the Dickinson man who was hit and killed by a drunk driver in the early hours of New Year's Day 2017, forgave the defendant for what he did that day and begged him to never make the decision to drink and drive ever again.
Michael Bracamonte, 23, of Dickinson, was sentenced to 10 years in prison with seven years suspended, meaning he will serve a total of three years with the North Dakota Department of Corrections. Bracamonte will get credit for time served and time for good behavior. He will also have to pay $1,000 in court fines and restitution to Garcia's family.
Bracamonte pled guilty in August to Class A felony causing the death of a person while under the influence and Class B felony leaving the scene of an accident involving death or injury.
The sentencing came after two hours of testimony given by Garcia's mother Imelda Nunez, his sister, Bracamonte's roommate and a man who had seen a person standing in the roadway that night.
Nunez said her son enjoyed spending time with his friends and family, with whom Garcia was very close. She said they talked nearly every day and he was constantly encouraging her and telling her things like "Mom, you're the best." and "I love you." The last text Nunez received from her son just after midnight on New Year's Day said, 'Mom, I love you.'
Garcia was attempting to get custody his now 2-year-old son, expressed that he wanted to go to college and had told her that 2017 was going to be "his year," his mother said.
Nunez said the past year has been very hard on her and her family, especially as the holidays approach. She said while nothing will bring her son back, she forgives Bracamonte for what he did because that's what her son would do. Nunez wanted Bracamonte to learn from what he did and make his life better so her son didn't die in vain.
"I forgive you from the bottom of my heart," Nunez said, looking at Bracamonte with tears falling from her eyes. "... I want you to learn from this and stop someone else from doing this."
The defense and the prosecution said at the beginning of the hearing that Garcia had been drinking heavily on New Year's Eve and had left the party he was at angry and upset. He was not wearing a coat or any other winter gear.
Jazmine Garcia, Rudy's younger sister, said her brother was her "best friend" and had been with him at the party on New Year's but had left before any alleged incident had begun.
She said her brother was happy while she was there and was laughing and having fun at the party. She did not believe her brother was suicidal.
Bracamonte's attorney Kevin McCabe called Brian Keller to testify during the hearing. Keller said he was driving his girlfriend home around 2:30 a.m. on New Year's Day and had seen a person in front of him hit their brake lights and then go around something. He slowed down and then swerved to pass a man who was standing in the middle of the road near where the accident happened.
He said the man standing in the road was looking down and didn't move when he passed him.
Bracamonte's roommate Matthew Anderson said Bracamonte came over to his girlfriend's apartment early New Year's Day and appeared panicked, but was walking fine. He allegedly told Anderson that he had hit "something" while he was driving but did not know what it was. Anderson told him that he needed to go back to the scene of the accident because no matter the situation you cannot leave the scene without talking to law enforcement.
Bracamonte agreed to go back to the scene with Anderson and told officers he was the one who had hit something. Anderson said Bracamonte "broke down" when he was told that he had hit a person.
Stark County state's attorney Tom Henning said the state was requesting three years in prison with three years probation. He noted that at least two other vehicles had avoided hitting Garcia and that Bracamonte's drinking inhibited him from doing the same.
"(Garcia was) one of the lights of the life of his mother that was extinguished by the incident," Henning said.
McCabe said Bracamonte has been cooperative with every step of the investigation and asked the court to consider the "totality of circumstances." He said that Garcia was also drunk that night and did not move out of the way when cars were going by. He added that if Bracamonte, who had a .186 blood alcohol content around 3:30 a.m. New Year's Day, hadn't come forward the case might have gone unsolved because there was no damage to the vehicle he was driving.
Southwest District Judge William Herauf said the case is a "shattering of lives" on both sides and said he considered Garcia's drinking that night as well but noted that there was "no place you couldn't have observed" Garcia that night on the road.
Bracamonte apologized to the family during the hearing and said he thinks about what he did every day.
"I will learn from this, I have learned from this and I will do better," Bracamonte said.