A chance for redemption

Sentencing a young man to probation versus prison was the right thing

Last month, when 19-year-old Eduardo Hurtado was sentenced to five years of probation for shooting at an occupied vehicle in which three people were injured, Chico’s daily newspaper cried foul, saying justice had not been served and that the community was a more dangerous place with Hurtado in it.

We disagree with that kneejerk reaction.

In looking at the facts of Hurtado’s case and in speaking with local attorney Ron Reed and Chico Police Det. Sgt. Brian Miller about gang culture in Chico, we think Butte County Superior Court Judge Robert Glusman made a brave and wise move in not sending Hurtado to prison.

The choice to join a gang can be an easy one, as it offers a safety net and a support system that could be lacking at home (or could be engrained in it). The choice to leave a gang can be a death sentence. That’s what Glusman foresaw for Hurtado, who decided to denounce the Norteños, the same ones who sent him out to shoot at that car last January, the same ones he said he feared would hurt his family if he didn’t follow through.

Sending Hurtado into a place where he could be killed for being a traitor or where he could return to gang life and come out a more hardened criminal would not make Chico a safer place. In his statements to detectives and counselors, Hurtado said he wanted to concentrate on his family—he married last fall and has an infant daughter. He’s agreed to go to rehab for drug and alcohol addiction.

As Reed attested, if Hurtado screws up, if he violates his probation, he’ll go to prison. He wasn’t given a pass or forgiven for his crime—he was merely given a chance to change for the better.