Prison escape accomplices sentenced

As of Monday, all but one person involved in the escape earlier this year from Piedmont Regional Jail have been convicted and sentenced. Judgements have been handed down in the cases of Adriana Marin-Sotelo and Giovanni Torres-Santana, with sentences carried out as of this week. Each sentence, however, ended up significantly smaller than what was originally expected, due to the terms of plea deals. 

HOW DID WE GET HERE? 

But first, a brief reminder of what happened. According to the FBI and court documents, at 1:40 a.m. on Sunday, April 30, Adriana’s brother Alder Marin-Sotelo climbed over the fence at Farmville’s Piedmont Regional Jail and escaped. Four hours later, at 5:40 a.m., video cameras caught him climbing into a red Mustang in a nearby parking lot and driving away. On Thursday, May 4, he was arrested by Mexican authorities in the state of Guerrero.

After Alder’s escape, FBI officials listened to all previous calls Alder made over the prior week while in jail. Based on those results, the agents also started listening to calls made by a second inmate, identified as Torres-Santana. On Friday, April 28, Torres-Santana made two calls to a family member, arranging for a red Mustang, eventually used as the getaway vehicle, to be picked up in High Point, North Carolina.

During that second call, Torres-Santana gave Adriana’s name and phone number, saying she had bought the car for $3,000 and was providing a temporary 30-day paper license plate. This family member was supposed to pick up the car from her and then have it in place near Piedmont Regional Jail by midnight on April 30, for Alder to use. 

Torres-Santana was already in jail and Adriana was arrested on Tuesday, May 2. Both were charged with conspiracy to assist or instigate an escape. As Adriana was also in this country illegally, she also faced the possibility of deportation. 

STRIKING PLEA DEALS

But then, both people agreed to plea deals this fall. In exchange for testifying against her brother and providing all details she knew about his escape and other activities, Adriana was offered the possibility of a reduced sentence and not being deported. 

After this past weekend, the court documents were filed, stating she had fulfilled her part of the deal. We can’t see what she said in testimony, as those documents have been sealed by the court. However, we can read the judgment in the case. In exchange for Adriana’s testimony, U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Eagles reduced her sentence from a potential five years down to 10 months, along with a $100 fine. Assuming she serves that time with good behavior, Adriana also won’t be deported at the end of it. Instead, the mother of four children will be placed on supervised probation for one year. The children, meanwhile, will continue to live with family in High Point, North Carolina. 

As for Torres-Santana, he also saw a reduced sentence after agreeing to provide testimony about Alder Marin-Sotelo’s escape. Instead of the original five years, Torres-Santana saw 18 months added to his current sentence. Upon his release, Torres-Santana also will pay a $100 fine and serve two years of supervised probation. 

WHY THE NEED FOR PLEA DEALS? 

So if Mexican authorities caught Adriana’s brother and everyone else involved in the case had also been charged, why was there a need for plea deals? That’s because of what Alder Marin-Sotelo, Adriana’s brother, was awaiting trial for in the first place. 

Alder Marin-Sotelo and his older brother Arturo stand accused of shooting Wake County Deputy Ned Byrd, who, according to court records, was found outside his parked patrol car on Aug. 11, 2022. The K9 officer had been headed to training with his animal partner when he reported in that he was checking out a truck on the side of Battle Bridge Road. The dashcam video from his patrol car picked up audio from the scene. The court records say there were six gunshots and then the video picked up the truck driving off. Byrd had been shot four times, including three shots to the back of the head. 

When he was later arrested, Arturo told sheriff’s deputies he had been hunting deer in a field near Battle Bridge Road, armed with an AK-47, at the time of the murder. He claimed his younger brother Alder had been parking their truck on the side of the road. Court records show Arturo claimed he saw a police car pull up behind the vehicle and heard gunshots, then watched from the field as his brother drove away.

The problem is that Mexican authorities have not yet returned Alder Marin-Sotelo to stand trial. That’s because, under terms of their extradition agreement with the U.S., Mexico will not return prisoners who would be facing the death penalty. So the prosecution in the death of Deputy Byrd had to agree to go for life in prison instead, a decision they just recently agreed to. Now, not wanting to risk anything to chance, prosecutors offered the plea deals to see if they could add any further evidence to their case. 

As of Monday, Nov. 20, Alder Marin-Sotelo had still not been returned to the U.S. to stand trial. And there is currently no set date for that trial.