The Fourth Court of Appeals in San Antonio, Texas, confirmed Wednesday the judgment finding a Del Rio man guilty of kidnapping and assault. Alberto Verastegui, of Del Rio, received a 45-year prison sentence in May 2018.
Verastegui was convicted in the 83rd Judicial District Court by a jury, of aggravated kidnapping, aggravated assault by threat, and aggravated assault.
On the appeal, Verastegui’s defense argued the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction for aggravated kidnapping, that his punishment for aggravated assault by threat is barred by double jeopardy, and that the trial court erred in refusing his request for a jury instruction on defense of a third party.
The court of appeals denied the claimant’s arguments.
Verastegui’s charges stem from his role in the July 22, 2016 kidnapping and assault of David Longo, manager of the Studio 6 Extended Stay Motel, 3808 Veterans Blvd.
Verastegui and Veronica Enriquez were found guilty in separate trials of the kidnaping and assault of Longo. She was sentenced to prison terms totaling 76 years in October 2017.
Enriquez and Verastegui, according to court records, took Longo on July 22, 2016 from the motel in a pickup truck, and drove north on Highway 277.
Longo said Enriquez pointed a gun at him during the drive. Longo tried to wrestle the gun away from the woman and Verastegui intervened to prevent it. When the truck veered off the roadway and Longo attempted to get away, Verastegui helped Enriquez restrain Longo by striking him in the head with a beer bottle and choking him.When she lowered the gun, Longo grabbed the firearm from her and threw it out of the vehicle.
Although Verastegui and Enriquez fled when Longo broke away from them, they returned and forced him to get back into the truck by threatening to take Longo’s son.
The appeals court found irrelevant the fact that Longo initially joined Enriquez voluntarily in the truck, and that he agreed to get back into the truck when they came back for him.
“Additionally, the decision to return Longo to the motel does not absolve Verastegui of the kidnaping charge. Rather, releasing the victim in a safe place – if proved by the defendant by a preponderance of the evidence – merely reduces the kidnapping offense from a first to a second degree felony,” the appeals court ruled.
The defense’s argument of double jeopardy by imposing multiple punishments upon Verastegui for the same offense was struck down by the court of appeals, stating Verastegui failed to raise this complaint in the trial court or alternatively the conviction of aggravated kidnapping and aggravated assault by threat did not violate double jeopardy.
“We hold the undisputed facts do not show the double jeopardy violation is clearly apparent on the face of the record. Accordingly, Verastegui’s double jeopardy complaint is overruled,” the court’s opinion states.
Finally, the court of appeals ruled that Verastegui’s defense claim that he hit Longo with a beer bottle to protect Enriquez, does not meet the “defense of a third person” criteria.
The appeals court ruled that the evidence to support Verastegui’s conviction is sufficient “for aggravated kidnapping; no double jeopardy violation is clearly apparent from the face of the record; and Verastegui was not entitled to rely upon defense of a third person. We therefore overrule his issues and affirm the trial court’s judgement.”
The case was prosecuted by the office of 63rd/83rd Judicial Districts District Attorney Mike Bagley and initially tried in the 83rd Judicial District Judge Robert E. Cadena’s court.
“My office is satisfied with the court of appeals. We had a strong case and the evidence proves that the conviction of Verastegui was fair and justified,” Bagley said.