LatinaLista– Yesterday, Sam Bonilla, the Dodge City, Kansas man on trial for shooting and killing a man he claimed was trying to attack him was sentenced to the maximum sentence of 74 months.
In following this story, and presenting the case as was reported by a local reporter, Claire O’Brien and also speaking with a local Latino community leader, I felt that Sam’s version of self-defense was just a much more plausible explanation than the notion that Bonilla, a respected businessperson in the local Latino community, would take his son and nephew down to the riverbed and just wait around to shoot without provocation the first couple of guys that crossed his path.
During the time I’ve posted about the case, members, and what I can only surmise are friends, of the shooting victim responded to my defense of Bonilla. As to be expected, they were enraged that I would defend someone who had shot their loved one. Yet, things took an ugly turn when responding to the last post, several of these same commenters used such profanity in expressing their outrage that I not only deleted their comments but in defending their loved one, they lost total credibility with me.
One of the arguments against Bonilla’s innocence, according to the shooting victim’s family is Bonilla must be guilty otherwise he wouldn’t have pled guilty to manslaughter.
In speaking to people in Dodge City’s Latino community, Bonilla pled guilty because he was too afraid he would not receive a fair trial and would be sentenced to life, never seeing his children again.
Seeing that he got the maximum sentence and the judge and jury handily denied his belief that he was acting in self-defense, seems to strengthen his doubts of the Dodge City judicial system.
Bonilla’s first hint that the tables were turned against him was when the judge, Dan Love, stated before the trial even began that he felt Bonilla had used “excessive force.” Well, the judge continued to tell Bonilla what he thought during the sentencing hearing, as well as, raking reporter Claire O’Brien over the coals for reporting that Bonilla used self-defense.
According to Judge Love, O’Brien’s use of the term “self-defense” fueled assumption that Bonilla was innocent, and discounted the counter testimony of two other Hispanic women who were said to be present — testimony that no one ever elaborated on.
Regardless of the Judge’s remarks, there are facts to the case that were not introduced or widely disseminated that clearly showed that both of these men were drunk and harassing Bonilla and his nephew and son.
So, because Bonilla thought they were going to physically attack him and he defended himself, the judge can say in hindsight that Bonilla’s action was excessive and he deserves maximum jail time?
That doesn’t sound like justice or fair execution of the law — for Bonilla or for Claire O’Brien who, thanks to her diligence in getting the Bonilla story out, has achieved in getting a story out there in the national press that never would have gotten out of Dodge.