Oscar Arizpe presented a sympathetic backstory when he appeared for sentencing on Monday at Santa Cruz County Superior Court.
According to his pre-sentence report, Arizpe, who recently turned 20, had witnessed repeated acts of domestic violence growing up, as well as the death of his 2-year-old cousin. He ended up as a homeless drug abuser who began stealing to get money for drugs and food.
His crime spree ended with him facing felony charges in six different cases.
And while his crimes were non-violent, one of the offenses involved Arizpe breaking into the residence of a Nogales woman while she was at home and asleep. He reportedly stole two cell phones and disabled a land line so that if she woke up and caught him in the act, she wouldn’t be able to call for help.
“It’s a crime that we all dread. It’s a crime that every member of the community hopes never happens to them. It’s the stuff of nightmares,” Deputy County Attorney Caleb Wagner told Judge Thomas Fink.
Turning to the question of punishment, Wagner said:
“We can go one of two ways with this individual. We can give up on him. We can isolate him from the community for the community’s own protection by placing him into the Department of Corrections. We could just leave him there. We can warehouse him. Or, we can give him chance at rehabilitation.”
Wagner said he wrestled with the dilemma, and didn’t like either choice.
“But, based on his age an the non-violent nature of the crimes he has committed, I think he is at least entitled to a chance at rehabilitation to see if he can rehabilitate himself,” he said.
Wagner recommended a five-year sentence of intensive probation supervision rather than prison.
Defense lawyer James Miller also asked the judge to give Arizpe probation, and noted his client’s plan of entering an in-patient rehabilitation program, then transitioning to a sober-living home and finding a job.
Still, Miller said, since Arizpe had no place to go, he suggested the judge order that he be kept in custody until a bed opened up at a rehab facility.
Fink acknowledged Arizpe’s difficult upbringing and said: “Of all the cases I’ve had to do recently, this is the most difficult decision.”
But he also pointed out the seriousness of the breaking-and-entering burglary offense.
“A really serious offense is to steal from someone else’s home, violate their sense of security in the place that’s their own and that’s their safe place,” he said. “And then to do it while they’re in their home is just something that really violates their sense of security and privacy.”
Plus, the judge said, he had to be “realistic” about Arizpe’s chances to turn things around on probation.
“We just don’t have those services in place to really give someone like him a chance on probation with this kind of background and with these kinds of problems he has,” Fink said, noting that some people are able to get their act together in prison.
So considering Arizpe’s crimes and the potential risk to the community if he were put on probation, the judge sentenced him to a mitigated sentence of two years in state prison, with credit for 151 days already served.
String of arrests
Earlier in the hearing, Wagner recounted the details of the defendant’s crime spree.
It began on Sept. 15, 2019, when he was arrested for criminal trespass after he was found staying in an unoccupied trailer.
Then on March 20, 2020, he was arrested for two instances of burglarizing vehicles at a local trailer park. Arizpe was released from custody and two days later, he was caught in possession of drug paraphernalia and marijuana.
He was released again, but re-arrested on March 26 for being in an abandoned car on someone’s property, once again in possession of drug paraphernalia and marijuana.
After another release, he was arrested on April 3 for possession of methamphetamine, and released from custody.
Then on April 6, he committed the burglary of the woman’s home. According to his pre-sentence report, he dropped a number of stolen items outside the home, as well as a wallet that police traced to him.
The burglary victim, who slept through the break-in, was not as shaken up as some might be, Wagner told the judge, though he noted that she still wanted Arizpe to serve time in prison.
Fink told Arizpe that “if it happened again, the next person might not be so tough.”
“They might be a vulnerable victim. Or they might be a victim who’s even tougher and confronts the person who’s coming into their home with a weapon. And then that could mean the end of your life,” as well as trauma for the victim as well, he said.
Of the six cases against him, Arizpe pleaded guilty to the residential burglary and vehicle burglary as part of a plea agreement with the state.
Fink sentenced him to two years in prison for the home burglary, a Class 3 felony, and one year for the vehicle burglary, a Class 4 felony. He ordered that the sentences be served concurrently, or at the same time.