SAN LUIS — During his Thursday sentencing hearing former Boulder Mayor Bob Greenlee, 78, listened as members of Pat Lucero’s family members talked of their irreparable loss Dec. 28, 2016 when Greenlee’s vehicle caused a five-car crash that took the 70-year-old woman’s life.
Greenlee pleaded guilty Jan. 11 to four of nine original criminal counts for his role in the crash, though he maintains he cannot remember anything about the incident. He was hospitalized with head injuries after the incident and his Boulder-based attorney, Mark Biddison, pointed to his client’s continued ill health while asking for leniency.
Pleas secured convictions for criminally negligent homicide, two counts of careless driving and one count of reckless driving.
The 12th Judicial District Attorney also had charged him with vehicular homicide, vehicular assault, speeding, reckless endangerment and improper passing on the left. All of those charges were dropped as part of the January agreement.
Chief Trial Deputy District Attorney Ashley Fetyko said the vehicular homicide charge was dropped because, while Greenlee drove recklessly and carelessly, he did not knowingly or maliciously plan to kill Lucero. She observed that these were not crimes of violence or offenses that needed any other treatment.
Physicians’ reports received by presiding Senior Judge Jon Kolomitz suggested that incarceration could lead to deterioration of Greenlee’s health and likely death. Not only does he still suffer from injuries suffered in the 2016 crash, but he also has a severe and incurable illness that demands constant care and medication.
Biddison argued that a sentence to the Colorado Dept. of Corrections could mean one death would be paid for by another, while Fetyko said any sentence levied would never make Lucero’s family whole. However, she said, a too-lenient sentence would not send the message that Greenlee’s poor driving choices had taken away someone so very important to family and community.
While probation remained on the table, community corrections was ruled out.
Probation was considered an appropriate sentence, Judge Kolomitz said, taking everything into consideration, despite inexcusable behavior on Greenlee’s part that December afternoon. Greenlee was sentenced to 10 years of supervised probation, a fine of some $50,000 and useful community service as determined.
By Dec. 1 of each year, Greenlee was ordered to contribute a non-deductible $100,000 to charitable causes determined by the 12th Judicial District. He has reportedly already covered the cost of the 2017 free community dinner, an event Lucero chaired for many years.
In addition, Greenlee will not be allowed to operate a motor vehicle and will participate in restorative justice programs. All will be done in Boulder County although the offense took place in Costilla County on La Veta Pass.
Kolomitz levied fines of $1,000 each for two class 2 misdemeanor traffic offenses and recognized that, while Greenlee’s insurance company is negotiating restitution, it will be determined. One motorist, Joseph L. Howe, said he still suffers from his injuries, but hasn’t sought much treatment because he cannot afford it and Kolomitz told him to get the treatment and let the insurance company know.
Greenlee admitted causing a multi-vehicle crash that killed Lucero, injured other motorists and hospitalized him and his wife with critical injuries. He still needs the assistance of a walker.
He was driving a 2003 Cadillac Escalade westbound 87 mph in a 65-mph zone on Colorado 160 the afternoon of Wednesday, Dec. 28 when his vehicle crossed into the eastbound lane to pass another vehicle when it hit Lucero’s eastbound 2010 Toyota Camry.
Lucero’s vehicle then collided with a 2015 Freightliner pulling a trailer in her lane and a 2006 Kia Spectra in the oncoming lane. After hitting Lucero’s vehicle, Greenlee’s vehicle hit a BMW X5 head-on in the oncoming lane, before going off the edge of the highway.
Judge Kolomitz said criminally negligent homicide is a class five felony, the careless driving charges are listed as class one traffic offenses, but amount to misdemeanors and the reckless driving is a class two traffic offense.
Among the family members offering victim impact statements was Katherine Gomez Provencal, who displayed photos of her mother, as well as the crash scene, with Christmas presents spread along the ground.
“This is my Christmas,” she told the court.
Lucero had wrapped up the annual free Christmas dinner in Alamosa and headed to the metro area to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s with her children and grandchildren.
Provencal said words cannot describe the loss and the loss to be felt by her grandchildren on each of their special occasions.
“She lived for the smiles of her family,” Provencal said, noting that love spread to the community. “She made a difference, one person at a time.”
Lucero’s daughters, granddaughters and former husband, Walter Gomez, whom she met as a young girl and became involved with in college, all mirrored the love and regard the woman had for family and community.
Gomez said that, although the marriage ended in divorce, he and Lucero were a team where their daughters and grandchildren were concerned.
It was a strong legacy, he said of the feelings of her survivors. Her daughters are committed to community service and love for others.
Patricia was the only daughter her parents had, but she left behind beautiful daughters and grandchildren, Gomez told Greenlee. “You may have taken a life, but Patricia Lucero will live forever in our lives.”
Donia Gomez Sabus read a letter from Anna Gomez Tromp, a daughter who lives in Saudi Arabia and couldn’t be present for the sentencing.
Anna described her feeling of anticipating a wonderful Christmas gathering as it turned into a nightmare when the phone rang and news was received of Lucero’s death.
Donia said, “She was my best friend. I feel lost without her. My heart is broken.”
Looking at Greenlee, she said he has been able to be with friends and family, something her mother will never do again.
She asked the judge not to let her mother’s death be in vain.
Speaking one by one, Lucero’s granddaughters told the judge and Greenlee of their huge loss.
Greenlee’s friends took the stand to describe his efforts in Boulder and his generosity. Biddison said Greenlee “lived the traditional American Dream as a successful businessman, husband, father and grandfather.”
He asked the judge to take all that into account upon sentencing.
Fetyko told the court that punishment was part of the criminal code and asked the judge to punish Greenlee as he deserved. An appropriate sentence will afford Greenlee the opportunity to pay for the crime, the community to heal and the family to get past it.
“If due care had been exercised, none of us would be here today and Ms. Lucero would be alive.”
Biddison said Greenlee would address the court and express his great sorrow at what happened. Fetyko had commented about his apparent lack of remorse and accountability as reflected in probation and presentencing reports.
According to Biddison, Greenlee was forbidden by court order from contacting family members or the prosecution before the sentencing hearing.
The probation report offered no opportunity for Greenlee to express his feelings.
Biddison reiterated that Greenlee still has no memory of the crash and has had to learn about it from Colorado State Patrol reports, along with autopsy reports and other information concerning the crash and its aftermath.
“It has been no blessing to Mr. Greenlee to have no recollection.”
Addressing the people assembled in the courtroom, Greenlee said, “For the rest of my life, I will be extremely sorry.”
He said Lucero’s family has shown her legacy and there is no way he can change what happened to her.
“If I had one wish granted to me, it would be for Mrs. Lucero to come back to you all.”
He said he had been driving for more than 60 years without “even a fender-bender,” then the fatal crash took place.
Greenlee apologized to all of Lucero’s family and friends and said he did so individually and collectively. “I accept your desire for justice,” he said. “I ask you not to dwell on revenge.”
Addressing Greenlee, the judge said a class five felony carried with it a sentence in the Department of Corrections, as well as a fine of between $1,000 and $100,000.
The class one traffic offenses carry with them a fine of between $500 and $5,000 as well as six to 16 months in the Costilla County Jail. Reckless driving could bring a $250 to $1,000 fine and three to 12 months in the county jail.
In ruling against incarceration, Kolomitz said the sentences are discretionary and it was his decision to levy the lengthy probation and monetary punishment.
Kolomitz warned Greenlee that the conditions of probation would be rigid and any violation could land him behind bars, then rapped his gavel to close the legal portion of what Pat Lucero’s brother called “A senseless tragedy that hurt an entire family.”