WORTHINGTON — A Worthington resident was sentenced Tuesday to 74 months in prison for a July incident in which he stabbed another individual.
Blas Palma-Alvarado, 60, was arrested July 14 after a victim reported to police that they had been stabbed during an altercation outside the Atrium apartment complex. The victim had gone to the hospital for life-threatening injuries that required surgery in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Security footage from the assault showed Palma-Alvarado fighting with the victim. Palma-Alvarado then went inside and returned after a few minutes with a long knife, which he used to stab the victim.
A jury convicted Palma-Alvarado in October of first-degree assault. Based on the severity of the offense, Minnesota sentencing guidelines suggested a presumptive sentence of 86 months in prison, with a range of 74 to 103 months. Because of the victim's role in the fight, the Nobles County Attorney's office recommended the minimum sentence of 74 months.
Palma-Alvarado's defense attorney, Amanda Delaney, asked the judge for a dispositional departure, allowing Palma-Alvarado to serve probation in lieu of prison time. She asserted that Palma-Alvarado is amenable to probation, has almost no criminal history, and the criminal history he does have is not violent.
"At his age, it's fairly unlikely that he would re-offend," she noted, citing a statistic from the U.S. Sentencing Commission that says individuals over the age of 60 have only a 16.4% chance of re-offending.
Delaney also stated that because Minnesota law says a person convicted of first-degree assault with a dangerous weapon is not eligible for supervised early release, then sending him to prison could actually be a threat to public safety, whereas probation would install support systems to ensure his compliance.
"I don't believe there was any dispute of fact (at the trial) that the victim was the aggressor," Delaney concluded.
"The victim was an aggressor," prosecutor Braden Hoefert contended, "but he obviously was not the sole aggressor."
Palma-Alvarado returned to his apartment, waited, got a knife, then came back to stab the victim, so clearly he didn't assault the victim in self-defense, Hoefert said.
"The victim very nearly died from this offense," Hoefert continued, adding that the only reason this isn't a murder case is that the victim had the presence of mind to take himself to the hospital.
The recommendation of a 74-month prison term already considers that the victim instigated the fist fight, he said, but stabbing the victim was "grossly disproportional to what the victim had done."
Hoefert asked the judge to pronounce a sentence that sends the message that "this type of behavior just cannot be tolerated in a civilized society."
Palma-Alvarado exercised his right to make a statement prior to sentencing.
"As I see it, the victim, during his statement, said a bunch of lies," Palma-Alvarado told the court. He argued that the security footage presented at trial had been edited and did not accurately reflect what had happened.
He repeatedly asserted that he had acted in self-defense, claiming that he had to get the knife because he had a fractured hand and wasn't able to fight with his fists.
"Because of how everything happened, justice has not been served," Palma-Alvarado said. He told the judge he intends to appeal his case with the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
Fifth Judicial District Judge Sherry Haley told Palma-Alvarado that there is not enough evidence to prove that he is amenable to probation. In fact, she said, his statement was "focused on conspiracy theories and blaming the victim," and such a lack of accountability actually shows that he is not amenable to probation.
She also agreed that the fact that Palma-Alvarado left the scene and then returned with a weapon is evidence that this was not self-defense, and therefore does not support a departure from the sentencing guidelines.
She sentenced Palma-Alvarado to 74 months in prison with credit for 185 days previously served. He is not eligible for supervised early release. She also ordered him to pay a $500 fine.