Carson City man gets 25 years in 2013 murder; parole possible after 4 years
Carson City District Judge Todd Russell on Wednesday sentenced Leonardo Cardoza to 25 years on his plea to second-degree murder.
In addition, Russell made the sentence concurrent to his existing sentence for attempted murder.
That means he will be eligible for parole after serving 10 years. Since he has already served six years, that means his first parole hearing will occur in about four years.
Cardoza was originally convicted of first-degree murder in the death of Desiree Bragg, who was crushed against the front of her mother’s north Carson City home by Cardoza’s minivan on Jan. 26, 2013.
But that life sentence was overturned by the Nevada Supreme Court, which said Judge James Wilson failed to properly define the elements of first-degree murder.
His second sentencing before Wilson resulted in another life sentence for second-degree murder, which Wilson again made consecutive to the attempted murder sentence Cardoza is still serving.
But during that hearing, Wilson said in his mind, the killing was premeditated. The difference between first- and second-degree murder is premeditation so Wilson later vacated that sentence and turned the case over to Russell.
In imposing the sentence, Russell said Wednesday he feels the determinate 25-year sentence with possible parole after 10 years is fair in this case.
Russell said the issue of whether to run the sentences concurrently or consecutively is a more difficult question based on whether there were two separate actions — ramming the minivan into Bragg and then ramming her boyfriend Steven Castro — or just one action.
“Here there was only one action in the court’s mind,” he said.
He emphasized the real victim in this case was Bragg.
“No matter what happens here today, we can’t bring Desiree back,” he said.
Russell also rejected the idea it was somehow an accident on that January night in 2013.
“Mr. Cardoza put himself in that position that night,” Russell said pointing out alcohol and drug use isn’t a defense in Nevada law. Cardoza’s blood alcohol was estimated at 0.0275 by a technician from the Washoe County crime lab, more than three times the legal limit.
Russell, however, took note Cardoza had absolutely no criminal history before that night and has had an exemplary record in prison.
“There is nothing to indicate this incident was anything but an aberration in an otherwise productive life,” said Russell.
He said unfortunately, only three people know what happened that night: Bragg, who’s deceased, Castro, who has been completely uncooperative with authorities, and Cardoza, who can’t remember what happened that night.
Cardoza’s lawyer Allison Joffee said after the hearing the appeal of his second-degree murder conviction is still being pursued by the public defender’s office. She said it will likely focus on the same arguments made in the successful appeal of the first-degree murder conviction.