A Phoenix man was sentenced to 24 years in prison for his convictions for manslaughter in the 2013 killing of a Maricopa County jail officer and for aggravated assault in the shooting of someone else two days later at a party.
Authorities say Leonard Moreno, then 15 years old, fatally shot Detention Officer Jorge Vargas as the officer was in his driveway getting ready to leave for work. Moreno, now 24, has already spent nearly nine years in jail awaiting resolution of his case.
Before punishment was imposed on Friday, Vargas’ family members told the court about the enduring pain they feel from the death and strongly criticized the term of Moreno's plea agreement. Prosecutors said the plea deal was offered because of issues with both the facts of the case and the availability of witnesses to testify.
Superior Court Judge Jacki Ireland agreed with Vargas family that the deal was extraordinarily lenient, but the judge said it does bring a measure of justice.
“The single factor that is allowing this court to accept the plea agreement -- the single factor -- is that the government had serious factual issues with their case," Ireland said before announcing the sentence.
Moreno declined to address the court. His lawyers cited his young age at the time the crimes were committed and said he took responsibility for his actions by pleading guilty.
Vargas was an eight-year veteran who worked for the sheriff’s Custody Support Bureau in a jail food factory. He is survived by his wife and son, who is now 14 years old.