Man charged in 2017 crime spree accepts plea deal

By John Miller
jmiller@taosnews.com
Posted 1/25/19

Nearly two years after he was charged with a string of violent crimes, Martin Rivera pleaded guilty to two felonies as part of an agreement reached on Tuesday (Jan. …

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Man charged in 2017 crime spree accepts plea deal

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Nearly two years after he was charged with a string of violent crimes, Martin Rivera pleaded guilty to two felonies as part of an agreement reached on Tuesday (Jan. 22) in Taos District Court.

Rivera's public defender, Aleksandar Kostich, acknowledged there was sufficient probable cause for a jury to find Rivera guilty of the two counts: aggravated battery and attempted armed robbery.

The charges relate to crimes that took place on April 6, 2017, near the Smith's grocery store in Taos.

Court documents indicate that Rivera first approached a man at a gas station near the store and threatened him with a pocketknife. When the man refused to give up his vehicle, Rivera stabbed him in the gut, inflicting a nonfatal wound.

Rivera then attempted to steal a vehicle from a man and a woman who were loading groceries. The man was able to push Rivera away using a car door and safely escaped.

Taos Police Department officers responded to reports of the incident, but Rivera had fled the area by the time they arrived.

At the scene, investigators were able to collect samples of Rivera's DNA. The second male victim in the attempted robbery was able to identify him in a photo lineup provided by police.

Later that week, Rivera was accused of other crimes, which are being prosecuted in a separate case before Judge Sarah Backus.

Accompanied by a 16-year-old girl on April 11, 2017, Rivera allegedly stole a Toyota Tundra from a man at gunpoint in the parking lot of the Ranchos de Taos post office. He and the minor then fled south to Albuquerque.

The series of crimes touched off a statewide manhunt involving multiple law enforcement agencies. Sheriff's deputies finally arrested Rivera and returned the girl to safety at an apartment in Albuquerque on April 12, 2017.

That case had been scheduled for a jury trial this month but has since been canceled. No new trial date had been set as of press time.

In exchange for Rivera's guilty pleas, the 8th Judicial District Attorney's Office agreed to dismiss the other three counts in the five-count case, including one count of child abuse and two additional counts of attempted armed robbery.

The 22-year-old Ranchos de Taos resident faces a maximum sentence of eight years with the New Mexico Corrections Department, from which a little more than a year and a half will be subtracted due to time he has already spent incarcerated in Taos.

A sentencing hearing will be scheduled within 45 days of the plea conference, according to an agreement reached between Kostich and the state.

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