By Nicholas Grube
Triplicate staff writer
The man who stabbed another man after a bar brawl that started at Toreros Famosos Mexican Restaurant was sentenced to prison Thursday in the Del Norte County Superior Court.
Smith River resident Andre Jose Gonzalez, 24, will serve five years for assault with a deadly weapon after he stabbed Jaime Banuelos, 29, during an altercation that occurred on Waldo Street in March.
However, the judge in the case, William Follett, had some difficulties in imposing the sentence on Gonzalez.
"I find this to be an extremely difficult case," Follett said.
He said Gonzalez seems to be a very well-liked and generally law abiding citizen, mentioning his job, his children and single DUI conviction. Follett also noted Gonzalez' mild-mannered and "gentile" demeanor in the courtroom.
"That's why I'm really amazed by the monstrosity of the act ... I never would have guessed ..."
An acquaintance of Gonzalez also pled with Follett to reduce the sentence, and keep Gonzalez out of prison.
"Basically that night changed my life forever," Gonzalez' ex-girlfriend Melissa Barco said.
"I've been with Andre for 8 years and I have a two and half year-old son with him," Barco said between her sobs and those of others in the courtroom. "If he's sent to prison, I don't think he's actually going to make it...he's not a threat to society."
But despite Barco's plea for Gonzalez and his past history, the facts of the case remained when it came time to sentence him.
"We saw some testimony that was really somewhat frightening," Deputy District Attorney Ben McLaughlin said, noting how Gonzalez followed Banuelos after an altercation at Toreros to another resident, where he stabbed Banuelos. "He essentially eviscerated Banuelos," meaning his entrails came out of his body.
"Mr. Gonzalez slashed Mr. Banuelos several time, causing Mr. Banuelos's intestines to come out of his stomach," McLaughlin said.
For this reason, Follett said he needed to impose the five year prison term, though he offered Gonzalez some support and guidance.
"It pains me to send Mr. Gonzalez to prison," he said before addressing Gonzalez directly. "You'll still be a relatively young man when you get out out of prison."