Hugo Martinez had just turned 18 when he participated in the shooting death of a 5-year-old boy. He has been in jail for more than three years.
Now, he’s going to prison, the last of four Beloit men sentenced in the death of Austin Ramos Jr. of Beloit.
Rock County Judge Michael Haakenson sentenced Martinez on Wednesday to 15 years in prison and 10 years of supervision, the maximum for the charge of party to second-degree reckless homicide.
Ramos’ mother, sister and grandmother all spoke before sentencing, as they had at other sentencings, tearfully at times, about the loss of a child his mother said could lighten the mood with his smile.
The family will never be the same, said Ramos’ mother, Jasmin Martinez.
With community support, the family has awarded five scholarships in memory of Austin, she said.
“Your mother will still be able to tell you that she loves you,” she told Martinez. “I will never have that choice.”
Assistant District Attorney Mason Braunschweig said the victim’s father, Austin Ramos Sr., could not bring himself to attend more than one sentencing, and he probably is suffering from survivor’s guilt and post-traumatic stress.
Martinez gave a “full” confession about a month after the shooting, which occurred the night of Jan. 22, 2016, said his attorney, Scott Schroeder.
That confession helped convict the man who pulled the trigger, Braunschweig acknowledged.
Braunschweig said Martinez benefited from this help by being charged with a lesser crime, and he asked Haakenson to impose the maximum sentence, as did Ramos’ family.
While Martinez did not fire the gun, he handled the murder weapon and helped dispose of it by trading it for two other handguns afterward, Braunschweig said.
Martinez also wiped down the van used in the drive-by shooting, he said.
Braunschweig spoke at length about what Martinez has done in the Rock County Jail over the past three years, including getting what Braunschweig called gang-related tattoos.
Schroeder disputed that characterization.
Braunschweig said a tattoo with the nickname “Slice” referred to the dead brother of the shooter, Sergio Ortiz.
The day of the shooting, Ortiz targeted Austin Ramos Sr. to take revenge for the death of his brother Jose A. Ortiz, 30, who had been shot and killed in Beloit three months earlier.
Ortiz shot from a moving car at the vehicle Ramos was driving because he believed Ramos was a Latin Kings gang member, officials have said. The bullet instead struck Ramos’ son, who lived for three hours before dying at a hospital, Braunschweig said.
Schroeder said the tattoo actually was Martinez’ mother’s name, Maria.
Braunschweig asked Haakenson to look for himself, and the judge came down from the bench to examine Martinez’ arm.
Haakenson said later he thought it looked more like “Maria,” but he could see it as “Slice,” too.
Another tattoo was harder to dispute. It showed a skeleton bandit holding a smoking revolver.
A revolver was used to kill Ramos, Braunschweig said, adding: “It’s as if the defendant is celebrating this act.”
A third tattoo was related to the La Raza gang, Braunschweig said. Schroeder said the eagle in the tattoo referred to Martinez’ Aztec heritage, and the accompanying “R” means respect and is not a reference to the La Raza gang.
Martinez also got into fights, repeatedly violated jailers’ orders and flashed gang signs, despite his claim that he has abandoned the gang, Haakenson said.
Schroeder noted Martinez also got his high-school equivalency diploma while in jail, had no crimes on his record before that night and had just turned 18 when the murder occurred.
Schroeder said Martinez had no serious drug problem and had joined the gang two months before the shooting, but the only thing he had done was smoke and drink with fellow gang members.
Schroeder asked the judge for “a second chance.”
Haakenson called the tattoos and jail graffiti “marks of dishonor.”
Braunschweig argued that maximum sentences are what local authorities can do to deter gun violence and gang violence.
Martinez declined to speak on his own behalf.
Haakenson rejected a request to make Martinez eligible for prison rehabilitation programs that could give him a chance at early release.
Those sentenced earlier in the fatal shooting are:
- Sergio R. Ortiz, 26, sentenced Nov. 9 to 40 years in prison plus 20 years of extended supervision on a charge of first-degree reckless homicide.
- Eric Salazar-Mota, 24, sentenced March 8 to 14 years in prison and 10 years of extended supervision on a charge of party to second-degree reckless homicide.
- Isaac Torres, 27, sentenced April 5 to 15 years prison on a charge of party to second-degree reckless homicide.