FARMINGTON — A West Valley City man will avoid prison but spend more time in jail after being sentenced for stabbing a man in Layton in January.
Michael Ray Mendoza, 32, was sentenced to serve just over a year in the Davis County Jail after a district court judge suspended Mendoza’s potential prison sentence during a hearing Tuesday afternoon in Farmington. He was also given credit for time he’s served at the jail, as he has been in jail custody since Jan. 1.
Mendoza was originally charged with attempted murder, a first-degree felony. However, as part of his plea agreement, Mendoza’s charge was reduced to second-degree felony aggravated assault with his guilty plea. He also pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, a third-degree felony.
He pleaded guilty to the charges during a court hearing on April 9.
On Jan. 1, police responded to a hit-and-run crash on Main Street in Layton around 5:30 a.m. and found a suspected vehicle nearby near the intersection of Gentile Street and Main Street, according to charging documents.
Police found “a large amount of blood” inside the vehicle, according to charging documents. Minutes later police discovered that the driver was in the emergency room of the Davis Hospital and being treated for two stab wounds to his chest.
While police were responding to the hospital, they found an “intoxicated” man walking around near where the suspected hit-and-run vehicle was found. They later discovered the man they were talking to had the same address that the car was registered.
The man, whom police say was Mendoza, was searched by police, and they allegedly found a bloody knife in his pocket. They also allegedly found a “large amount of blood” on Mendoza’s arm and in his pants that did not appear to be his own, according to charging documents.
After being treated at Davis Hospital, the victim was flown via helicopter to the University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City in critical condition. He spoke with police and allegedly told then he was stabbed by “Michael Mendoza,” charging documents say. He said that he and Mendoza were arguing about something before Mendoza allegedly stabbed him with a silver-bladed knife. At one point Mendoza allegedly held the knife to the man’s throat but was able to get away, the victim told police.
On Tuesday, Mendoza was present in court alongside his counsel, Julie George.
George asked the court to follow the recommendation from Adult Probation and Parole of seven months in jail, citing Mendoza’s willingness to kick his alcohol addiction and regret for his actions. Mendoza told police that he did not remember the assault — as he had “blacked out” from drinking too much — and he did not know the reason why he attacked the victim.
“He is absolutely horrified with what had happened,” George said. “He’s wrestling with the fact that without alcohol, this would not have happened.”
Deputy Davis County Attorney Ben Willoughby argued in favor of a prison sentence, saying the attack could have very easily resulted in a homicide instead of an assault. Willoughby said that Mendoza has a history of drinking heavily and had threatened to kill a woman earlier that night. Willoughby added that Mendoza “drank himself into oblivion” that night, registering a blood alcohol level of .292 after he was arrested. Willoughby pushed for a prison sentence, saying not all second-degree felonies are alike.
“This is not a robbery, this is nearly a murder,” he said.
The mother of the victim spoke briefly on behalf of the victim and their family. She said that the victim’s children still live in fear that Mendoza will come back and “finish the job.”
“I don’t know how any mom could handle the call at six in the morning I received,” she said.
When given the chance to speak, Mendoza backed up what his attorney had claimed. He said his drinking has not only affected him, but the lives of his family and that of the victim’s.
“There is no amount of times I could say ‘I’m sorry’ to take this all back,” Mendoza said. “With what happened, I know I will never turn back to alcohol.”
George added that, once released, Mendoza will seek to be prescribed a medication that would cause him to become “violently ill” if he ingests alcohol.
Judge David Williams ruled that Mendoza would not be sent to prison, prompting gasps from the victim’s family members who attended the hearing.
“I do not believe that prison is the right sentence,” Williams said.
After completing his jail term, Mendoza will be placed on probation for four years, during which he will be regularly tested for alcohol in his system. He will remain at the Davis County Jail for the remainder of his jail sentence.