Cardoza gets life for 2nd-degree murder; appeal planned

Leonardo Cardoza

Leonardo Cardoza

Judge James Wilson on Wednesday again ordered a life sentence for Leonardo Cardoza and ordered it run consecutive to the attempted murder sentence he’s already serving.

He was originally convicted of first degree murder in the death of Desiree Bragg, 19, by ramming his minivan into her, crushing her against the front of her mother’s north Carson City home in 2013. But that sentence was overturned by the Nevada Supreme Court.

In sentencing Cardoza, Wilson said the killing in his mind was premeditated.

If the sentence stands, Cardoza will serve a minimum of 14 years in prisonin addition to the nearly six years he has already served.

But defense counsel Allison Joffee said they will again appeal to the Supreme Court because Wilson didn’t listen to the Supreme Court opinion overturning Cardoza’s 2013 murder conviction.

“He went back to the evidence that was admitted at the first trial without listening to the Supreme Court which said there was insufficient evidence of premeditation,” she said.

She said the other issue is under long standing case law, the judge who accepted Cardoza’s guilty plea to second degree murder should have handled the sentencing. That judge was Todd Russell, not Wilson.

“Wilson was wrong,” Joffee said. “He should not have stayed on the case.”

Joffee had argued the sentence should be 10-25 years and concurrent with his existing attempted murder sentence.

“He had his mind made up before,” she said of Wednesday’s day long hearing.

The sentence was more severe than the recommendation of the Parole and Probation’s Presentence report and District Attorney Jason Woodbury. They sought a 10-25 year sentence, not a maximum of life in prison.

Woodbury said in closing arguments he “genuinely believes that’s the most appropriate sentence in this case.”

And, unlike Wilson, he carefully avoided saying the crime was premeditated, although he said it wasn’t an accident.

“It was clearly in part the product of an individual who had consumed a large amount of alcohol and was acting out of a rage that was out of character,” he said.

During the trial, Cardoza’s blood alcohol was estimated by a crime lab technician as high as 0.28 percent, nearly four times legally drunk.

Woodbury also pointed out the complete absence of any prior criminal history and the fact he has been a model prisoner, earning a GED and high school diploma and taking victim impact programs.

Joffee presented testimony by psychologist Herbert Coard who said there’s significant evidence Cardoza suffered a traumatic brain injury which Joffee argued was before the victim was killed when her boyfriend Steve Castro beat Cardoza over the head with a table leg he had in his car.

She sharply criticized how Cardoza’s first lawyer Jesse Kalter handled the case.

The Supreme Court order overturning the conviction said Wilson failed to properly define the elements of first degree murder. It said Cardoza’s conduct after the crime, wandering around the victim’s yard and crashing his car into a fence before stumbling back to the victim’s home, “is not emblematic of a willful, deliberate and premeditated murder.”

Joffee pointed out they’re also still fighting to overturn the attempted murder sentence imposed for nearly running down Bragg’s boyfriend Steve Castro.


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