Local man sentenced for aggravated assault, threat of violence after Hurricane shooting incident

ST. GEORGE — A Hurricane man who was shot during an argument and later charged with aggravated assault was sentenced in 5th District Court Thursday.

Raul Rivera appears for sentencing in 5th District Court, St. George, Utah, Jan. 30, 2020 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

District Court Judge John J. Walton sentenced Raul Rivera, 43, to serve one year in jail on two third-degree felony counts of aggravated assault, a misdemeanor threat of violence charge and two separate misdemeanor drug and paraphernalia charges.

The defendant was found guilty on all charges when the case went before a jury during a one-day trial held in 5th District Court Dec. 18.

Judge Walton also suspended two prison terms of 0-5 years in the case, and while Rivera will get credit for time served, Walton said, he will not be eligible to earn good behavior time. He was also placed on 36-months probation with Adult Probation and Parole, ordered to pay a fine of $1,500, and obtain a substance abuse evaluation and follow the standard provisions of probation upon his release.

The case stems from an incident reported in May 2019 when police responded to a reported shooting in the area of 3700 West and 165 North. Shortly before the incident, police at the scene said Rivera and two other male relatives were involved in a custody dispute.

Rivera began making verbal threats toward the two other men.

“Raul was found standing by his vehicle and threatened that he had a 9 mm handgun in the vehicle and that he would shoot both (men),” the probable cause affidavit reads.

L-R: Defense attorney Micheal Lastowski and Raul Rivera during a sentencing hearing held in 5th District Court, St. George, Utah, Jan. 30, 2020 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

Rivera then allegedly reached in the vehicle and pulled out “an object that was black in color” and lunged toward the men with it in his hand. One of the men, fearing for his life, pulled a revolver from his pocket and fired one round at Rivera, hitting him in the lower abdomen.

Medical responders arrived and rushed Rivera to the hospital while investigators processing the scene where they found a “black handled screwdriver” lying on the ground where Rivera was gunned down next to his vehicle.

Rivera was arrested by Hurricane City Police after he was discharged from the hospital where he was being treated for the gunshot wound, and he has remained in custody since May 6, 2019.

During the sentencing hearing, Prosecutor Rachelle Shumway said the defendant has a long history of drug use and that his family is “scared of him.”

She also said the family moved from Southern California to a quiet neighborhood in Hurricane to get away from the gangs and violence, and yet, because of the Rivera’s actions, Shumway said, the violence “is coming to their doorstep.”

Rivera countered by saying, “I would never touch my family under any circumstances,” adding that he “has been a law-abiding citizen.”

Walton disagreed, and he reminded the defendant of the charges he was being sentenced on in court at the moment, saying, “but you were convicted by a jury in this case.”

Raul Rivera, 43, booking photo posted in Washington County, Utah, May 3, 2019 | File photo courtesy of Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

Shumway said the defendant should serve time in prison “for his crimes,” and brought up a manslaughter conviction the defendant did time in prison for years ago, a conviction Rivera contested, saying it was “in the process of being overturned because the witness lied,” he said.

Rivera’s defense attorney, Micheal Lastowski, said the defendant’s family has made a number of allegations against his client, including claims the defendant made numerous threats against them and that “he’s always got guns,” Lastowski said.

“Yet, when (Rivera’s) car was searched, they didn’t find any weapons in his car — nothing,” he said.

Lastowski also said his client has paid for the crime by serving more than 270 days in Jail, in addition to what took place on the day of the incident itself.

“He’s paid for this crime your honor. He got shot in the gut,” Lastowski said.

The attorney added that his client wants to return to North Dakota and go back to work.

Judge Walton also said if Rivera wanted to request an interstate compact agreement with North Dakota so he can return home to serve out the rest of his sentence, he should start the process while he is still in custody in Washington County as it takes time to make the arrangements with Adult Probation and Parole.

The defendant was also ordered to have no contact with the victims in the case.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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