Leonardo Cardoza sentenced to 29 years to life | NevadaAppeal.com

Leonardo Cardoza sentenced to 29 years to life

Leonardo Cardoza
Geoff Dornan | Nevada Appeal

Leonardo Cardoza, 28, was sentenced to 29 years to life Wednesday for the murder of Desiree Bragg.

The 19-year-old was killed in January, 2013 when Cardoza’s minivan smashed Bragg into the front of her mother’s house in northwest Carson City, crushing her body.

The sentence for the murder itself is a maximum of life. While District Judge James Wilson gave Cardoza the possibility of parole after 20 years, he made the sentences all consecutive. Those include a 60-150 month deadly weapon enhancement for the murder, a 24-120 month sentence for attempting to murder Bragg’s boyfriend Steven Castro, and a 24-60 month enhancement for that conviction.

Added up, that means Cardoza will have to serve a minimum of 29 years before he can be released from prison.

Allison Joffee, who was brought in for the sentencing primarily to build a case for an appeal, filed a motion before sentencing asking Wilson to set aside the jury verdict and order a new trial. He refused.

She said afterward she will file a notice of appeal in the next 30 days based on the contention Cardoza was so drunk that night he was incapable of forming the intent needed to support a premeditated murder conviction. His estimated blood alcohol level was 0.28 percent, more than three times the legal limit.

“This is a DUI causing death,” she said in her closing argument.

But District Attorney Neil Rombardo rejected that argument: “This is not a DUI causing death. It’s murder.”

He said it was road rage.

“They (Bragg and Castro) did something to make him angry,” he said. “Who knows what.”

The trial testimony indicated Cardoza followed the couple’s vehicle all the way from the AM/PM in south Carson to Bragg’s house off of College Parkway and pulled in the driveway behind them.

When Bragg got out of the car, Rombardo said, “He backs up, accelerates at a high rate of speed, hits her.”

Joffee said he was so drunk he was just following their tail-lights down the road in an attempt to get to his sister’s house just a few blocks away from Bragg’s home. Rombardo pointed out a jury deliberated nine hours after hearing a week’s worth of testimony in the case and found Cardoza guilty of first-degree murder.

There was emotional testimony from both sides to try to influence the judge.

Bragg’s mother Wrenatta Nadon said all Cardoza offered during his testimony was excuses.

“The holes in our lives can never be repaired and you, Mr. Cardoza, are responsible for that,” she said.

Cardoza’s mother Martha apologized to the Bragg family referring to the death as a tragedy but an accident.

Cardoza testified at trial he was trying to get away from Castro and thought he put the car in reverse but instead put it in drive before accelerating.

His mother asked Wilson to drop the charges saying, “I know that there were mistakes made but I can tell you that what I know is my son is not a murderer.”

Normally in a first-degree murder case, the jury also is responsible for sentencing. In this case, both sides agreed to have Wilson sentence Cardoza primarily because of the reaction jurors had when told they were responsible for sentencing.