Crime

Defense Attorney: Perry under the influence when he crashed into officer's motorcycle

ABC-7 at 10: John Paul Perry Plea Deal

EL PASO, Texas - The man who allegedly rammed into an El Paso Police motorcycle officer, killing him, accepted a 40 year plea deal from the district attorney Tuesday.

ABC-7 has learned from defense attorney Joe Spencer that John Paul Perry, 45, was under the influence of Xanex and heroin the day he collided with Officer Ortiz's motorcycle. Spencer maintains the crash was an accident.

"The drug screen shows he had drugs in his system. He had Xanex in his system, he had opiates in his system and that's why he was not all there, and that's exactly what happened, his conduct was reckless and that's what he pled to," Spencer said.

Perry, took the 40 year manslaughter deal in Judge Luis Aguilar's courtroom after discussing it with his attorney. Last week, Perry rejected a 45 year plea deal. He was facing Capital Murder charges in the death of El Paso police officer David Ortiz in March of 2015.

ATTORNEY JOE SPENCER ON PERRY'S PLEA DEAL



Police accused Perry of intentionally slamming the Kia Optima he was driving into Ortiz near the intersection of Lee Trevino and Vista Del Sol, causing both the Kia and motorcycle to burst into flames. Ortiz was catapulted into the top of another vehicle before landing on another. He died four days later in the hospital.

According to court documents, there are several witnesses who saw Perry approach the intersection at a high rate of speed and "abruptly change from the center to the right lane where the officer was stopped."

Police traffic investigators noted there were no skid or brake marks on the road.

A witness also told the Merkel Police Department Perry admitted to hitting and killing Ortiz intentionally. Perry left to Merkel after the collision, but was arrested and returned to El Paso where he was charged with Capital Murder.

Ortiz's parents were in the courtroom for the plea deal along with other family members, sitting right in front of the jury box as Perry sat nearby discussing the plea deal with his defense attorney, Joe Spencer.

Ortiz's sister read a victim's impact statement shortly afterward as Perry sat with his head hung.

"This monster took away from us everything," Rebecca Ortiz Andrade said. "There is nothing we can do to bring our brother back."

Spencer, speaking on behalf of his client, said, "(Perry) is sorry for his actions. The loss he has caused the officer's family. The loss he has caused the community."

ABC-7 reached out to the Office of District Attorney Jaime Esparza. We received a brief statement: "The punishment of 40 years for manslaughter is based on a thorough and complete investigation."

"We really wanted Capital Murder and for him to spend rest of his days in jail, but we'll take this," Herlinda Ortiz, Officer Ortiz's mother. "At least he won't do any harm on the streets anymore. We can start with our lives, because we haven't been able to continue with our lives and we never will, I'm sure."

OFFICER ORTIZ'S MOTHER ON PLEA DEAL

Herlinda Ortiz said the sentencing was not only justice for her son, but justice for "all those officers out there that are still being targeted. That has to stop, that has to stop, they are here to protect us, they are here to take care of us. They are beautiful people just like my son was. He did not deserve to die like that."

In response to Ortiz's statement with an apology, Herlinda Ortiz said, "sorry will not bring my son back. Why didn't he look us in the eyes to say he was sorry for what he did?"

Officer Ortiz's brother, Raymon Ortiz Jr., told ABC-7 Perry got off easy. "I can't say that justice was served, we were seeking for the maximum. We had to find out about (the plea deal) from the media."

“One of the things Mr. Perry was insistent on, is that he wanted to bring closure to this case. He didn't want to put the Ortiz family through a trial,” Spencer said. “He has always accepted his conduct was reckless. That's why he pled to the manslaughter case.”

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The defense attorney for a former Barrio Azteca gang member accused of intentionally killing an El Paso police motorcycle officer told ABC-7 Thursday they will not accept a plea deal of 45 years in prison and the case is likely headed for a capital murder trial later this month.

"We're not ready to accept that. Not at the current offer," said Joe Spencer, attorney for John Paul Perry, who allegedly hit officer David Ortiz on purpose at a red light near Lee Trevino and Vista Del Sol on March 10.

"We think this case is a manslaughter case. It's certainly not a capital murder case," Spencer said.

The District Attorney's office had no comment on the case. A hearing in the 243rd District Court is scheduled for Tuesday and the trial is scheduled to begin on Jan. 20.

Spencer said he thinks 30 years is more appropriate and his client would consider accepting that sentence. "They have indicated to us that they are not going to come down to 30 years," Spencer said.

At issue is whether Perry, driving a Kia Optima, intentionally drove into Ortiz, causing his motorcycle and the Kia to burst into flames. The force of the impact threw Officer Ortiz into the top of another car. The officer's body then slammed into a second vehicle.

"There's no doubt that there was reckless conduct on the part of Mr. Perry," Spencer said. "But it certainly was not intentional."

An off-duty police officer and other witnesses have claimed Perry was traveling at a high rate of speed and abruptly changed lanes to hit Ortiz. Another witness allegedly told police in Merkel, Texas, where Perry allegedly fled, that he admitted to intentionally hitting the officer.

Spencer said he believes that witness is Perry's brother.

"I think the state is claiming he had a conversation with his brother," Spencer said. "We visited with his brother. We don't think his brother is going to say that. We also believe he was under a tremendous amount of coercion and duress when he gave that statement, because he has such an extensive criminal history, his brother does. I think he was trying to look for some help to help himself."

As for witnesses who claim Perry drove into Ortiz intentionally, Spencer said: "I don't see that way, that the officer has any way of determining whether it was intentional or not. Certainly the accident reconstruction from the state doesn't show that he changed lanes. He was in the same lane and he just didn't see the individual in front of him."

Perry's sister, Glenda Gallegos, told ABC-7 two weeks after Ortiz's funeral her brother told her he did not hit the officer intentionally.

"They're making him look like a monster and he's not a monster," Gallegos said through tears. "He's a human being and he made a mistake." She said her brother told her he "dozed off" and was sorry for what happened.

"I'm sorry for the family of Officer Ortiz," Gallegos said. "My heart goes out to them, but he's not a monster. It was an accident and he has to pay for it being an accident, he knows that."

Spencer told ABC-7 his client was overcharged. "I think part of the reason it was over-charged is it gives them leverage to try and negotiate and try and get a higher sentence," Spencer said. "But it certainly tells you, I believe, even their acceptance, that they think it's a risky proposition to try and prove a capital murder offense."


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