By Sarah Smith
Forum News Service
PARK RAPIDS – A Park Rapids man convicted of killing his friend in a drunken brawl two years ago was sent to prison for 110 months this week because he could not stay away from alcohol.
Judge Paul Rasmussen said he was disappointed in Luis Candelaria, 49, when the judge imposed the stayed adjudication Tuesday for the 2010 death of Richard Hoskins.
At the time of Hoskins’ death, Candelaria was under a court order not to drink.
“He’s a public safety threat,” said Hubbard County Attorney Don Dearstyne in court Tuesday.
Candelaria and Hoskins spent July 3, 2010, drinking and partying on a boat. They got into a heated argument driving home. Candelaria threw three quick punches in the yard of his Park Rapids residence. Hoskins, 41, died almost immediately.
Candelaria, who was performing chest compressions when police arrived, claimed he swung in self-defense.
In a plea deal suggested by Hoskins’ family, a charge of second-degree murder was dismissed against Candelaria and he pleaded guilty to third-degree assault. He was sentenced to 18 months in jail and a 15-year probationary period, during which he was ordered to stay away from alcohol consumption and be law-abiding.
“The victim’s family two years ago was supportive of him not going to prison and so we arranged for a stay of adjudication for him and placed him on probation,” Dearstyne said.
Hoskins’ family and girlfriend asked Candelaria to stay sober at his sentencing, to honor Hoskins’ memory.
Dearstyne said Candelaria was arrested from drunken driving in North Dakota last September.
“He was doing in excess of 100 miles an hour when the trooper clocked him (on Interstate 29). The trooper turned on him and pursued him. He was weaving in and out of traffic. He blew a .216 alcohol concentration,” Dearstyne said.
Candelaria was charged with violating his probation, at that time thought to be a simple DUI, Dearstyne said.
“Subsequent to that it was in November, right around Thanksgiving, he was coming back somewhere from the west,” Dearstyne said. “Somewhere between here and Detroit Lakes, people called in that there was a fight in a car and they (the driver) put him out somewhere on the county line.
“He was a passenger,” Dearstyne added. “There was some kind of disagreement in the car that caused them to pull over and say, ‘Get out.’”
Park Rapids police picked Candelaria up on the roadside, legally drunk.
When he appeared in court Nov. 26, Dearstyne asked that Candelaria be jailed immediately.
“His attorney was requesting that the court do a departure and not sentence him,” Dearstyne said of Tuesday’s sentencing on the probation violation.
“I was arguing public safety is at risk here when you’re diving at that kind of speed under the influence. Any accident would have been catastrophic. The judge recognized that and pointed out that we’re not here just on a no-drink violation. It was actually a law violation.”
Rasmussen imposed the sentence that had been hanging over Candelaria’s head, the 110 months.
Both judge and prosecutor expressed their disappointment at the defendant’s relapse.
“That’s a huge issue,” Dearstyne said. “He was sent to inpatient treatment after he was released from jail in 2011. He was supposed to do aftercare as well. Part of successful completion of treatment is following through with the aftercare.”
Candelaria did not take advantage of the care available, Dearstyne said.
“Yes there may be relapses but when there is you recognize it and contact your treatment providers, which is what didn’t happen here,” Dearstyne said.
“I don’t think he’s an evil person and he has a great work record,” the county attorney said. “He was working at American Crystal Sugar making over $20 an hour and was a good worker. But when he starts drinking it changes his personality and he becomes confrontational. And that’s the real problem.”
On good behavior, Candelaria could serve two-thirds of the sentence before being eligible for release.
By Sarah Smith