Sanchez sentenced to 1.5 years in deadly ripple-effect crash case

Brooke Curley Photo/ Gila Valley Central: Sanchez was sentenced 1.5 years in prison on an endangerment charge, and five years probation to be served after his prison term.

By Brooke Curley

SAFFORD – The agony over deadly decisions permeated the courtroom Monday, as Rudy Sanchez, 69, was held accountable before the court for his unintentional involvement in the death of Max Green.

Sanchez was sentenced 1.5 years in prison on an endangerment charge and five years probation to be served after his prison term. He was given two five-year terms of probation on two separate counts of aggravated assault but the terms will b we served concurrently (at the same time.)

Sanchez is also forbidden from operating a vehicle ever again, as well as consuming any type of alcohol or drugs. Sanchez appeared in front of Graham County Superior Court Judge Michael D. Peterson, where he presented a plea agreement and pleaded guilty to two charges of aggravated assault – Class-3 felonies – endangerment – a Class-6 felony – and DUI to the slightest degree – a Class-1 misdemeanor.

Sanchez was remorseful and told Peterson that he wanted to seek restitution with the victim’s family. Having been attending therapy, Sanchez said that his therapists told him to ask the family if he could make for restitution for the individual he hurt.

“I was at the wrong place at the wrong time, with the wrong person,” Sanchez said. “I’m very very sorry for what happened. I wish I could turn things around and make things right but I can’t. I hate myself for what happened.”

Judge Peterson told the court that the Green family wrote a letter seeking no restitution from Sanchez, and only wished that he never operate a vehicle ever again.

“Rarely have I received rhetoric more gracious,” Peterson said. “If you read this letter, these people have forgiven you already Mr. Sanchez. They must be extraordinary people.”

Peterson told the court that he factored multiple aspects into the reasoning behind his verdict. Sanchez’s age, lack of criminal history, lack of drinking and voluntary attendance of therapy played major parts in Peterson’s verdict.

Brooke Curley Photo/Gila Valley Central: Rudy Sanchez expresses his remorse as he asks Judge Peterson about providing restitution to the victim’s family. The family sought no restitution and only asked that Sanchez not be allowed behind the wheel ever again.

Max Green, 85, and his wife, Nathalene, had just finished enjoying the annual Pima Heritage Days dinner at the Pima School District cafeteria and were on their way back to their car at about 7:20 p.m. when tragedy hit. Sanchez, who was driving impaired from drinking, and a stroke earlier in the year, plowed into the couple as they were in a crosswalk at the intersection of Main Street and 200 South. Rudy Sanchez’s choices on the fateful night of April 22, 2016 caused the death of Max Green, who suffered multiple broken bones, as well as a fractured neck.

Max was then flown to Banner-University Medical Center Tucson, where he was hooked to a ventilator due to his neck injury. While on the ventilator, Max caught pneumonia and died, which led Graham County Medial Examiner Bart Carter to conclude that Max died due to complications that arose from the initial collision. However, the doctor who signed Max’s death certificate did not see it the same way and listed his death as due to natural causes.

Brooke Curley Photo/Gila Valley Central: Rudy Sanchez makes his way out of the courtroom with the aid of a walker after being sentenced 1.5 years in prison followed by five years probation, Monday.

Sanchez was initially charged with negligent homicide as well as multiple charges of aggravated assault, endangerment, DUI and open container of liquor in a vehicle in Pima Justice Court. The complaint was dismissed March 20 by the town prosecutor, however, and refiled in Graham County Superior Court on March 22, only this time there was no charge of negligent homicide. While Dr. Carter, who is a relative of Max Green, listed the crash as contributing to the death since the official death certificate listed the death as due to natural causes it was not possible to charge Sanchez with homicide.

Jon Johnson contributed to this article.