Vehicle theft, fleeing police leads to 8-year prison sentence

Nov. 21—A 29-year-old defendant was sentenced to eight years in prison in Whitfield County Superior Court on Monday.

Guadalupe Puentes-Chavarria pled guilty to three felony offenses — theft by taking, fleeing/attempting to elude a police officer and second-degree criminal damage to property — stemming from incidents that occurred on July 13.

Conasauga Judicial Circuit District Attorney Benjamin Kenemer recounted the facts of the case.

"He took a yellow 2003 Hummer motor vehicle from the victim," he said before Conasauga Judicial Circuit Judge Cindy Morris. "He drove it in an erratic manner once the police were in pursuit."

Kenemer said the defendant was the "proximate cause" of a collision involving the stolen Hummer and a Whitfield County Sheriff's Office vehicle.

"He operated the vehicle in excess of 20 miles per hour over the posted speed limit of 50 miles per hour on South Dixie Highway," Kenemer continued. "He operated the vehicle in excess of 20 miles per hour over the posted speed limit of 40 miles per hour on Walnut Avenue."

Kenemer said Puentes-Chavarria faced a maximum sentence of 30 years for the three combined offenses.

As part of the plea deal, the prosecution opted to drop one additional felony count of fleeing/attempting to elude a police officer against the defendant, as well as misdemeanor counts of driving while license is suspended or revoked and possession of drug-related objects.

"The state's recommendation is made with the understanding that the defendant could be facing a potential habitual felon sentence," Kenemer said. "He does have six prior felonies."

The felony theft by taking charge resulted in a four-year prison sentence and a consecutive four-year prison sentence for the felony fleeing and eluding charge.

The second-degree criminal damage conviction produced a consecutive 10-year probation sentence.

The defendant is also ordered to pay a $1,000 fine, perform 300 hours of community service and complete alcohol and drug abuse counseling.

He is also ordered to refrain from having any contact with the named victim in the case.

"My office has not been provided with any restitution figures," Kenemer said. "So we have met our obligations under the law and I will not be asking for restitution on that case."

Public defender Carter Thomas asked that Puentes-Chavarria receive credit for time already served in pretrial detention.

"He was arrested on this count and taken into prison on a parole violation and brought back," he told the court. "He never received bond, it should be reflected to the custodian relatively easily."

He noted that the defendant would be eligible for parole under the Whitfield County sentence.