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Jun 1, 2005

Ten year sentences for cop and soldier

Two law enforcement officers who were found guilty of manslaughter and abetment to manslaughter were today sentenced to ten years each for the fatal shooting of Belize City resident Aaron Mariano almost two years ago. Giovanni Gutierrez, a Belize Defence Force soldier, and Police Constable Dennis Palacio were found guilty of the crimes last week in the Supreme Court. Gutierrez was convicted of manslaughter and Palacio was convicted on the abetment charge. The prosecutions resulted from an incident that occurred on New Road near the Queen Street Police Station on September tenth, 2003, in which Palacio ordered Gutierrez to shoot Mariano, who was allegedly fleeing from police. Gutierrez complied, and shot Mariano with his M-sixteen rifle, fatally wounding him to the back of his head. Justice Troadio Gonzalez said that in passing the sentences on the men, he considered the mitigation pleas made on their behalf by their attorneys. The maximum sentence for the offence of manslaughter is life imprisonment, but Justice Gonzalez said he felt compelled to sentence the men to ten years each, effective today. In his sentencing, the judge noted that even though he is a Police Officer, Palacio had four different prior convictions, including one for common assault and another for aggravated assault.

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