Adrian Gonzales nearly walked out of court a free man Wednesday evening.
A Santa Fe County jury, after deliberating for 24 hours over four days, acquitted him of first- and second-degree murder, but couldn’t reach a decision on whether he was guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the 2010 stabbing death of Victoriano Moises Byrne-Gonzales, 21.
Gonzales is accused of stabbing Byrne-Gonzales in the throat with a 3-inch folding knife after Byrne-Gonzales and a friend tried breaking up a fight between Gonzales (no relation) and his girlfriend at the Butterfly Springs Mobile Home Park in Pojoaque on Dec. 2, 2010.
Jurors also could not unanimously agree whether Gonzales was guilty of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon for allegedly stabbing Byrne-Gonzales’ friend, Santiago Cordova.
The jury found Gonzales not guilty of battery on a household member. He had been accused of beating his girlfriend at the time, Natasha Romero, during their fight before the stabbings.
Gonzales, 31, of Dixon smiled slightly after the verdict was read.
But his expression changed quickly when state District Judge Mary Marlowe-Sommer announced that he was being arrested on a warrant for a federal probation violation and another warrant out of Rio Arriba County Magistrate Court, both of which had already been served.
Gonzales shook his head. His defense attorney disclosed to the jury last week that Gonzales had been convicted of drug trafficking in 2007.
Because the jury remained hung on the counts of involuntary manslaughter and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, a mistrial was declared. Chief Deputy District Attorney Petra Schwartz said her office will retry the case, but Gonzales cannot be retried on a first-degree or second-degree murder charge because the jury unanimously decided he was not guilty of those crimes.
Assistant Public Defender Megan Dorsey began last week’s trial saying that Byrne-Gonzales and Cordova had acted as “bullies” and had taken “the law into their own hands.”
Gonzales claimed in his testimony that he was approached by Byrne-Gonzales and Cordova, and that he had stabbed Byrne-Gonzales in the neck and Cordova in the back in self-defense.
Assistant Public Defender Joseph Campbell said Gonzales “held up well” on the stand.
“Adrian was a believable witness,” Dorsey added. “His testimony was compelling, heartfelt and sincere.”
When the verdict was announced, dozens of family members and friends of Byrne-Gonzales began to cry. Members of the family declined to comment, but a friend said in passing that Byrne-Gonzales was a “good Samaritan.”
“He is not a bully,” she said.
Another family member added, “So much for justice.”
Cordova, 22, did not talk to reporters about the verdict. He testified last week that he and Byrne-Gonzales were working on Byrne-Gonzales’ BMW in the mobile home park when they heard Gonzales and his girlfriend arguing. He testified that they saw Gonzales “beating on her,” and Byrne-Gonzales said, “Let’s go show that guy what’s up.”
“It bugged him. He said, ‘I can’t stand that,’ ” Cordova testified.
Cordova described how the two men ran toward the scene of the fight and yelled at Gonzales to stop hurting the woman. Gonzales and Byrne-Gonzales then “squared up to fight,” but Cordova said Byrne-Gonzales never lifted his fists or swung at Gonzales.
Dorsey told the jury that Gonzales executed one “defensive jab” at Byrne-Gonzales, catching him in the throat. Gonzales was arrested several hours later driving southbound on Interstate 25.
Romero testified last week that she and Gonzales had been fighting that entire day and that at one point, he had grabbed her by the back of the head so hard that some of her hair fell out. Romero admitted she had been drinking a lot that day and that had caused most of the fighting.
Schwartz said after the verdict was read that the entire process had been emotional. “We’re disappointed, but we have to respect the jury’s decision,” Schwartz said. “I feel very badly for the family.”
Gonzales, who could have been sentenced to life in prison for the first-degree murder charge, now only faces 18 months if convicted of involuntary manslaughter. He has already spent 14 months in jail and would be given credit for that time served.
A week before his death, Byrne-Gonzales, also known as “Mo,” had been promoted to a new position as assistant director at the Playschool of the Arts, 2076 Galisteo St., where he taught art to young children. His fiancée was due to give birth to his son, Zaidynn, the next week.
Zaidynn, now 14 months old, spent the last week in the courthouse with his mother and the rest of Byrne-Gonzales’ family. The family friend who called Byrne-Gonzales a “good Samaritan” also said, “His legacy will live on.”
Contact Nico Roesler at 986-3089 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @nicoroesler.