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FAYETTEVILLE -- A jury on Thursday afternoon found Giovanni Vasquez-Sanchez guilty of being an accomplice to first-degree murder and unlawful discharge of a firearm from a vehicle. He was sentenced to 27 years in prison.

Vasquez-Sanchez, 21, was the driver in a fatal drive-by shooting April 11, 2015, in Springdale. A passenger, Rodolfo Alberto Martinez, shot and killed Jimmy Rodriguez, 20, who was standing in front of a house on Savage Street.

Vasquez-Sanchez spent more than an hour on the witness stand, testifying he did not know Martinez had a gun nor that he was going to shoot at anyone.

Prosecutor Matt Durrett told jurors in his closing argument that Vasquez-Sanchez knew what was going to happen.

"He drove that car over there so Rodolfo Martinez could kill somebody," Durrett said. "They were going to take out someone they thought was in another gang."

Vasquez-Sanchez was identified by Eric Rodriguez, Jimmy's cousin, as the driver of the car with three teenage passengers. Rodriguez said Wednesday that he took cover when the shooting started.

Vasquez-Sanchez was a "victim of an impulse shooting" by Martinez, his attorney, Erwin Davis, told jurors.

"There's no proof there was a plan afoot to murder someone," Davis said. "Had he not driven down that street, Jimmy Rodriguez would still be with us today and he would not be here (in court)."

Martinez was convicted in August 2017 of capital murder, two counts of unlawful discharge of a firearm from a vehicle and three counts of committing a terroristic act. Martinez was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The jury took about two hours to find Vasquez-Sanchez guilty. Prosecutors had sought a conviction for the crime of being an accomplice to capital murder, which would have come with a mandatory sentence of life without parole. The accomplice-to-first-degree-murder charge is a lesser included count and punishable by 10 to 40 years or life in prison.

The firearm-discharge count is also punishable by 10 to 40 years or life in prison.

The jury deliberated another half an hour before returning sentencing verdicts of 17 years on the murder charge and 10 years on the gun charge.

Washington County Circuit Judge Mark Lindsay sentenced Vasquez-Sanchez immediately and ordered the sentences to run consecutively.

"He has expressed no sorrow for what he did. He has expressed no sympathy for the victim or his family and, again, this is a gang-related situation," Lindsay said at sentencing. "I believe Mr. Vasquez's testimony and his actions in this case indicate that he is deeply rooted in it and is not sorry about it to this point, so I believe that a significant amount of time is necessary for Mr. Vasquez to be rehabilitated."

Vasquez-Sanchez will be given credit for more than three years served at the Washington County jail awaiting trial. He was arrested April 13, 2015, just a few days before his 18th birthday.

"That's a good bit of time that he'll be off the streets, which is a good thing considering what he did," Durrett said after sentencing. "His actions led to the death of a person who did nothing wrong but show up at an address on a Saturday morning. Any time you can get somebody locked up who engages in those behaviors, it's a good day."

Durrett praised the work of Springdale police in solving the case and the jurors for their thoughtful verdicts. Durrett said it will be about 15 years before Vasquez-Sanchez is first eligible for parole.

Another passenger, Jose Andrew Delatorre, pleaded guilty in September 2017 to being an accomplice to second-degree murder. Lindsay sentenced Delatorre to 20 years. He was given credit for the 891 days he was in jail.

Martinez and Delatorre were 21 when they were convicted.

The other person in the car was a 13-year-old. State law prohibits the release of information about minors' arrest records and court proceedings.

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Metro on 08/24/2018

Print Headline: Sentence 27 years in fatal drive-by

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