LaMadrid's attorney speaks out after sentencing - Tucson News Now

LaMadrid's attorney speaks out after sentencing

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

A man acquitted in the murder of a Tucson teenager has just been sentenced on an entirely different charge.

Last month a jury found Max LaMadrid not guilty of murder and manslaughter charges in the death of 16-year-old Tanee Natividad back in 2001.

Natividad was shot and killed while leaving a midtown Jack in the Box.  Lawyers say she had been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Dan Cooper, a criminal lawyer representing LaMadrid says a big fight had been taking place in the area moments before Natividad showed up to satisfy a late night hunger craving.

LaMadrid had just witnessed his best friend getting shot and killed.  After the shooting, Cooper says chaos ensued.  Several gunshots were exchanged as people fled the area.  Cooper said Natividad was caught in that cross fire, but he believed the jury got it right when they acquitted his client.

Cooper said they believed LaMadrid did not fire the shot that killed Natividad.  He was charged with shooting at an occupied structure.  While they jury found him not guilty of murder, they did find him guilty of that gun violation.

On Monday morning, the victim's family was in the courtroom for LaMadrid's sentencing.  After 12 years of living through frustration and emotional pain, Natividad's family felt it was time to move on after what they described as a failure of the justice system. 

Natividad's family has been through 12 years of frustration and emotional pain.

A judge sentenced LaMadrid to seven-and-a-half years on the weapons charge. It was the only charge he was convicted on after three trials, and two hung juries.

LaMadrid was on the run for seven years after Natividad was shot in what investigators called a case of mistaken identity.

"One of the arguments we made was that police jumped to a conclusion immediately, without investigating everything and carefully going over the evidence, they decided he was linked to it, and that was his impetus to leave," said Cooper, explaining why his client had suddenly fled the country after the shooting.

Cooper said LaMadrid was relieved and happy with the judge's sentence. He would have faced a life sentence in prison, had he been found guilty of murder.

"We don't believe he did shoot her.  He's sorry for the family, and what happened to her.  The jury's verdict is correct.  There were 30 casings there from 8-9 different guns found there that night," said Cooper.

He added that LaMadrid looked forward to starting his life once his sentence is over.

Natividad's family was angry about the acquittal.

"I felt like I was kicked in the gut. I was beyond pain. I didn't feel anything. I was just...I was like that for like two weeks afterwards. I couldn't understand how the second trial was 11 to 1 going towards guilty and the third trial was not guilty at all," says Natividad's mother, Barbara Ann Nunez.

"I just can't say enough about this justice system here. And I hope everything turns out alright from now. Maybe now we can rest. My daughter can rest now and it's been a long 13 years," says Natividad's father, Tony Perez.

The two families said they would work on getting on with their lives after such a long ordeal.

"It's almost 12 years in November, this is the end of it. I'll never have to come back in here again. And no matter what they would've given him, they wouldn't have given her back to me. I just know that I did what I could, my part. There was no justice for this," Nunez says.

Perez says, "Putting us through this for 13 years is ridiculous. You know, it's just unthinkable. I just can't--I don't have the words to express my disappointment in this right now. But maybe--well, maybe we can go on from now."

LaMadrid declined to say anything before he was sentenced.

He may have been sentenced to seven-and-a-half years, but he is getting credit for time served which is 446 days.  Cooper said, after time served LaMadrid could be eligible for release after three more years in jail.

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