Former Cuba police officer pleads guilty to deadly 2021 crash
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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – A former Cuba police officer is now pleading guilty after reportedly driving drunk and crashing into an SUV, killing two people last year.
This means there will not be a trial and the next step will be sentencing for Brandon Barber in early February.
Barber was off-duty when police say he caused a horrible crash on I-25 when he drove the wrong way and hit an SUV head-on.
During that fateful night last year, 21-year-old Diego Arellano died while traveling to see family.
KOB 4 spoke with relatives shortly after:
“We were just shocked and mad. He was a very funny guy, he loved cars, video games. He was a young guy barely starting to figure himself out, and it’s not fair because somebody took the decision to drink and drive and ended his life, and we need justice for him.”
50-year-old Alfredo Escaname Hernandez also died, and Diego’s brother Fernando was badly hurt. Prosecutors gave us an update, saying his injuries will affect him for the rest of his life.
Barber’s attorney says his client’s attitude hasn’t changed.
“Since day one, Mr. Barber had accepted full responsibility for what happened,” said Robert Aragon, attorney.
He says they were waiting to speak with prosecutors, who we now know didn’t offer him a plea deal.
“He didn’t want to have to take that family through the trauma of a trial, particularly given what the evidence looked like,” said Aragon.
The prosecutor in this case says this decision – for guilty pleas – means a judge can definitely consider a lighter sentence.
“That’s an argument that can be made to the court is that he took responsibility. He chose not to put the family through a trial, and he deserves some leniency,” said Guin Ice, prosecutor.
No trial means some relief for the victims’ families, and it’s the result they wanted – one prosecutors were always confident in.
“I think the state had a good, strong case,” said Ice.
They believe the evidence was strong, it included witnesses, blood work, and Barber’s own comments to law enforcement that night.
Now everyone awaits the day when Barber learns his punishment, as the difficult process continues for the victims’ families.
“This is going to impact them the rest of their lives, this horrible, tragic loss,” Ice said.
Barber had a previous DWI conviction in 2016, and that adds to the maximum sentence for his charges. He’s facing up to 45 years.