Washington County jurors convicted the 34-year-old Cornelius man of first-degree assault and unlawful use of a weapon Wednesday. The charges followed an August incident last year, when Pineda-Escobar threw a tire jack at a young man, hitting him in the head, causing serious injuries and loss of sight in one eye.
Sergio Hernandez-Valencia, 19, was walking two girls home at about 12:30 a.m. Aug. 17, 2012, when they approached Pineda-Escobar’s house. Hernandez-Valencia knew one of Pineda-Escobar’s housemates, and the group stopped to drink and hang out in the garage.
Prosecutors said after one of the girls went into house for several minutes, Hernandez-Valencia became concerned and started yelling for her. Pineda-Escobar, who told police he’d been in bed before then, was angry and pushed Hernandez-Valencia off the property.
Pineda-Escobar then grabbed a tire jack from the garage and threw it at Hernandez-Valencia, striking him in the face, leaving a deep gash stretching from Hernandez-Valencia’s nose to his right eye.
The force of the three-and-a-half-pound tire jack fractured Hernandez-Valencia’s skull and nose. Senior Deputy District Attorney Bob Hull said the teen lost the vision in his right eye. Hull said Hernandez-Valencia has undergone five surgeries and may need more.
Hernandez-Valencia’s parents attended the Friday sentencing. In brief statements to the court, they said Pineda-Escobar had boasted about injuring their son. They asked that justice be served.
When it was the defendant’s turn to speak, he stood slowly. The large man, speaking through a Spanish interpreter, told the court his four children would go hungry while he was in prison.
“How are my children going to survive?” Pineda-Escobar said. “I’m the only person that works in the house.”
He’d never been in trouble, he said, and he worked to provide his children the best.
“I work seven days a week,” he said. “And if they don’t have me, they will starve to death.”
“I believe that every person has a second opportunity or chance,” he said, then paused. “That is all.”
Circuit Judge Jim Fun sentenced Pineda-Escobar to seven years, six months in prison, the Measure 11 mandatory minimum for first-degree assault. Pineda-Escobar would have seven and a half years to think about repairing the damage he’d done to his family, Fun said. But, in that time, he could do nothing to repair the victim’s vision.
“The victim will never regain his eyesight,” Fun said. “His injury will likely be lifelong, permanent.”
Pineda-Escobar’s behavior has and will cost his family, Fun said, but it cost the victim, too.
“It has, I will remind you again, resulted in a permanent injury,” he said.
Fun ordered Pineda-Escobar to complete an evaluation and treatment for anger and three years of post-prison supervision, after his release.
– Emily E. Smith