Silva-Larios pleads to lesser charge of manslaughter

Amy Hamilton

Hugo Silva-Larios pleaded guilty Wednesday to reckless manslaughter in the shooting death of James Pogline last October.

The plea was part of a deal Silva-Larios, a 17-year-old Mexican national, reached with prosecutors. The plea agreement brought an end to his murder trial, which was scheduled to start Wednesday.

Silva-Larios had been charged with second-degree murder, a Class 2 felony, and faced 16 to 24 years in prison if convicted. Reckless manslaughter, a Class 4 felony, carries a much lighter sentence of two to six years.

Silva-Larios will be sentenced Oct. 5. As part of the plea agreement, all other charges in the case have been dismissed.

“After speaking with his family, (Silva-Larios) decided (pleading guilty to the lesser charge) was the right thing to do,” defense lawyer Kris Hammond said.

Neither of the defendant’s parents appeared in court Monday and Tuesday during the selection of jurors. Hammond said Silva-Larios’ mother lives in Mexico and his father lives in Nevada, though he was unable to attend the trial because of work.

Lawyers from the Moffat County District Attorney’s office offered the plea agreement Tuesday night. Chief Deputy District Attorney Amy Fitch said the plea was offered after the defense uncovered new evidence and after prosecutors learned the judge wouldn’t allow some lines of questioning.

“We spoke to the victims and defense, and we all decided to do this,” Fitch said.

Emotions ran high as presiding Chief Moffat County District Court Judge Michael O’Hara defined the terms of the agreement.

Members of Pogline’s family exchanged tearful embraces from the front row of the courtroom while the judge outlined sentencing possibilities. Silva-Larios at times placed his hand over his mouth and glancing at the audience.

“He’s not happy” Hammond said of the defendant.

The victim’s family has lost a son, “and every time they come to court they have to relive that,” Fitch said.

“I think they wish we could have done something more. But every jury trial is a risk.”

O’Hara placed a no-bond hold on Silva-Larios, replacing the $1 million bond that had been placed on him soon after his arrest. He never bonded out of jail and the current order won’t let him.

O’Hara also said the teen likely will be deported to Mexico after serving his sentence.

Hammond said he would push for the lowest possible sentence. Silva-Larios will have been housed in the Moffat County Jail a little short of one year at his sentencing hearing.

“It should never have been charged as a murder case,” Hammond said. “It should have been charged as manslaughter.”

Fitch said she was glad that there was a conviction in the case and prosecutors will press for the highest possible sentencing. “Obviously nothing is good enough because nothing will bring (the Poglines’) son back,” she said. “One thing we are pleased and grateful for is that Mr. Silva-Larios will be deported so that he won’t be in our community again.”

Amy Hamilton can be reached at 824-7031.

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