A judge on Monday sentenced an Ethiopian immigrant to seven years in prison for his role last year in the drug-related kidnapping and pistol whipping of a Santa Fe teenager.
Authorities said Daniel Tadege, 21, and two or three other people went to the home of a 17-year-old boy, forced the victim into a Jeep at gunpoint, then beat and threatened the teen with a gun before abandoning him on Mutt Nelson Road.
Tadege in June pleaded guilty to kidnapping and aggravated battery in a plea deal that exposed him to between two and 10 years in prison.
Defense lawyer Stephen Aarons said Tadege had been left alone in the United States at the age of 18 when his mother and sister returned to Ethiopia, and that Tadege began dealing cocaine to support himself and pay tuition at Santa Fe Community College.
Aarons said the victim was a customer who had robbed Tadege of money and drugs at gunpoint a few days earlier.
Tadege’s assaulted the younger man, Aarons said, “to take his stuff back and teach [the victim] never to jump him again.”
“It doesn’t justify it,” the lawyer said, “but it does explain it.”
Aarons said Tadege’s mother had flown in from Ethiopia to attend the hearing, but she did not speak Monday. Another Ethiopian woman, a friend of the family, did speak on Tadege’s behalf, begging the judge to “correct the real horror” that had befallen him when he was left alone in a country that was not his own.
“They brought him here and left him on the street,” she said.
Aarons asked District Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer to send Tadege to a two-year program at the Delancey Street Foundation, a residential self-help program aimed rehabilitating substance abusers, ex-convicts and others.
But prosecutor Blake Nichols asked the judge to give Tadege prison time.
“The state is not immune to the plight of immigrant youth and does not oppose folks coming to this country for opportunity,” Nichols said. “The opportunity to sell cocaine and beat someone within an inch of his life is not the opportunity they came here for.”
Tadege also addressed the court, saying he recognized that he made mistakes that hurt the victim and his family and asking for “a chance to get a grip” on his life at Delancey Street.
But the judge sentenced Tadege to prison, noting that Tadege had a job in a restaurant when his mother left the country but, apparently unsatisfied with the money he earned there, resorted almost immediately to “illegal activity and significant violence.”
The judge said Tadege would receive credit for about a year and a half spent behind bars but would have to serve 85 percent of his prison term — ineligible for day-for-day good time credit — because the crime was a serious violent offense.
Sommer said Tadege would likely be deported upon completing his sentence. But Aarons said Tadege received a renewal of his 10-year green card while the case was pending and might have some time to remain in the country legally after his release.
Tadege’s mother declined to comment following the hearing.
District Attorney Marco Serna, asked whether the other participants in the kidnapping had been prosecuted, said “the victim was unable to identify either of the other adults who allegedly participated. The other defendant that was identified is a juvenile, and I cannot comment on juvenile cases.”