State District Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer rejected a plea deal Friday for a man charged with vehicular homicide in connection with a fatal 2018 hit-and-run crash.
Ryan Palma, 24, was charged with homicide by vehicle while driving recklessly after police said he crashed his car into motorcyclist Emmanuel Hernandez Gonzalez, 20, and left him to die without calling for help.
State police said Palma was racing another vehicle on Interstate 25, near the La Cienega exit south of Santa Fe, at speeds of up to 90 mph late at night when he plowed into Gonzalez’s motorcycle, which was traveling in the northbound lane in front of him, according to reports from the time.
Assistant District Attorney Julie M. Gallardo told the judge Friday the District Attorney’s Office was prepared to offer Palma a plea deal that called for him to plead no contest to knowingly leaving the scene of the accident in exchange for having all other charges in the case dismissed.
The deal would have left it up to Sommer to decide how much prison time, if any, Palma would face in connection with the plea, up to the maximum penalty for the charge, which is six years.
But Sommer refused to accept the agreement after Gallardo couldn’t explain to the judge’s satisfaction how the plea was in the best interest of justice.
Gallardo said it would be hard to prove the homicide by vehicle charge because there was no evidence Palma had been driving recklessly, except by speeding.
“There was evidence he had been at a street race prior to the crash but no evidence … that he was actually racing at the time of the crash,” the prosecutor said.
“I’m not going to accept the plea,” Sommer said, adding a police report in the case showed Palma made a statement in which he admitted he was street racing. “I don’t find it in the interest of justice.”
Police said Palma and Gonzalez had been at an illegal race in the Waldo Canyon area off I-25, and the hit-and-run occurred as Palma and his passenger, Armando Alvarado, were headed back to Santa Fe on I-25 and Gonzalez was riding a motorcycle ahead of them.
Palma and Gonzalez lived in the same neighborhood and had many of the same friends, according to a previous report.