A defendant's youthful age and his family that includes a young child appears to have played a big part in an agreement to reduce the criminal charge coming from a deadly 2019 traffic accident in Pauls Valley.
Standing before a Garvin County judge last week was 24-year-old Orlando Gongora after just days earlier he had a warrant issued for his arrest for failing to appear at another scheduled court hearing.
Gongora and his defense attorney, Micah Ayache of Pauls Valley, were finalizing a plea deal on May 13 that included his first-degree manslaughter charge being reduced to a misdemeanor count of negligent homicide.
The charge against Gongora originally came not long after the vehicle he was driving southbound on U.S. Highway 77 swerved into the path of a truck driven by Jerry Dee Williams, 62, of Wynnewood back on Aug. 6, 2019.
Williams was forced to take evasive action as his vehicle, traveling northbound at the time, went off the highway in a southern part of Pauls Valley.
Williams suffered fatal injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene after crashing into a concrete culvert.
Before the new plea deal for Gongora went through it was first presented to Williams' family, including his widow, Janice Williams.
“He was my husband,” Mrs. Williams said with a few sniffles to hold back her emotions.
Williams answered a series of simple questions while testifying from the audience section of the courtroom at the recent sentencing hearing for Gongora.
During the proceeding Williams said Gongora's age and the fact he had a family and young daughter were factors in her decision to support the reduction in his criminal charge and punishment.
When the tragic accident happened Gongora was with a woman and their young daughter when he claims to have turned to check on the child resulting in the truck moving into the wrong lane and oncoming traffic.
“I'm OK,” Williams said when asked about a court deal that comes from the loss of her husband.
“It was entered into after consultation and with the permission of the victim's family,” said Garvin County District Attorney Corey Miner, adding the Williams family has already received some restitution from Gongora.
Moments later Gongora entered a no contest plea and was given a deferred sentence that came complete with a strong warning to stay out of trouble with the law during the term.
“I will accept your plea and a one-year deferred sentence pending your lawful conduct,” said Garvin County Special District Trisha Misak.
“You must live up to the conditions of the sentence. If you don't you will spend as much time in jail as I can give. That means no traffic tickets, nothing.”
Also a part of the sentence was a number of fines and fees to be paid by Gongora over time.