Diego Pichardo, the Santa Fe man convicted of causing a fatal DWI crash that killed Albuquerque hip-hop artist Andrew Martinez and seriously injured another man, was sentenced to 18 years in prison Tuesday, the maximum penalty for his crimes.
State District Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer also determined during a hearing marked by the sobbing of the mothers of both defendant and victim that Pichardo’s offenses — vehicular homicide and great bodily harm by vehicle while driving recklessly or under the influence — should be considered serious violent offenses for the purpose of sentencing.
That means Pichardo, 26, will be required to serve 85 percent of his 18-year sentence and won’t be eligible to earn credit for good behavior while serving time in a state prison.
Martinez’s mother, father and brothers spoke at Pichardo’s hearing Tuesday, remembering the Albuquerque man’s love of community and altruistic spirit.
Martinez’s older brother, Eric Martinez, said Andrew Martinez’s music — performed under the stage name Wake Self — stood out because he preached a message in lyrics laden with positivity, a departure from labels often given to hip-hop music.
Martinez, 30, was set to release his fourth album, Ready to Live, days after the Nov. 3, 2019 crash.
Kevin Allende, a friend of Martinez’s and a passenger in his vehicle at the time — he suffered multiple fractures in the crash — also spoke about his friend’s compassion for others.
“If anyone was ever in a room just saying a bad joke about somebody, he would be there to uplift them and say something counteractive that was positive about that person,” Allende recalled.
Pichardo reportedly was driving about 60 mph over the speed limit on the wrong side of West Alameda Street at the time of the crash on Nov. 3, 2019.
Allende said he and Martinez’s family members had a hard time forgiving Pichardo for his role in the artist’s death, in part, because he didn’t seem remorseful.
“I just don’t see no sympathy from Diego,” Allende said, noting that, at one point, Pichardo’s lawyers suggested he might not have been the one driving his truck that night.
Pichardo lawyer Arturo Nieto said Tuesday the adversarial nature of trials can make it appear as if someone isn’t regretful. But he added that wasn’t the case with Pichardo, whom he described as young man who had made “tragic mistakes in his life,” sparked in part by unaddressed substance abuse issues.
If Pichardo had been incarcerated after one of his first two DWIs — one in 2017 and another in 2019 shortly before the crash — he may have gotten the help he needed, Nieto said.
Pichardo pleaded guilty to aggravated DWI in the 2019 case in July and was sentenced to a little over seven months in jail — time the judge said he’ll serve consecutively to the 18-year sentence in the Martinez case.
When Pichardo addressed the court Tuesday he said he knew he had gotten himself into the nightmare which had devastated the community and both families.
“From the bottom of my heart, I ask for forgiveness and apologize for my catastrophic mistake,” he said. “If I had the power to give Andrew back his life in exchange for mine, I would do it instantly.”
Pichardo added that, given a chance, he would devote himself to spreading Martinez’s message of love and speak to youth groups and others about the dangers of drinking and driving.
In arguing for the harshest sentence, prosecutor Julie Gallardo said it was “offensive” for Pichardo and his family members to refer to the crash as a mistake when he made conscious decisions “every step of the way” to drink and get behind the wheel.
Judge Sommer also took issue with Nieto’s suggestion that the court system had somehow failed Pichardo, adding the blame for his actions lay squarely with the defendant and his parents for failing to take his drinking problem seriously.
“If your parents and you would have cracked down … this wouldn’t have happened,” the judge said.
“You don’t need to help others,” she added. “You need to help yourself.”