MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Andy Rodriguez, a former Coral Gables Senior High School student, was sentenced Tuesday to 40 years in prison and 10 years of probation for the murder of classmate Juan Carlos Rivera.
Earlier this year, a jury found 19-year-old Rodriguez guilty of second-degree murder in the stabbing death of Rivera.
Rodriguez had faced a maximum of life in prison.
“The court has taken into consideration the young age of the defendant, lack of priopr criminal record, and his nine suspensions in school over three years,” Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Dava Tunis. “Because of your actions you have forfeited your youth and much of your life.”
During the proceeding, Rodriguez said he never meant to hurt Rivera.
“I want to ask for forgiveness from the family of the victim from the bottom of my heart. I’m not a murderer. I don’t behave like a murderer. I have a good heart,” said Rodriguez.
Rivera’s mother sent an emotional plea via letter to Judge Tunis.
The letter said, “Andy Rodriguez destroyed my family, my hopes, and my dreams.”
Rodriguez’s defense attorneys had argued that their client acted in self-defense when he stabbed Rivera.
“This kid went through hell before he got here and now he’s back into hell and sentencing him to life would be cruel and unusual punishment,” attorney Alexander Michaels said. “I beg the court to sentence him to no more than 20 years.”
“He’s the best thing that happened in my life. He’s a good son. He’s not an assassin. It was a fist fight at school. There was no security to separate them. My grandson never meant to kill anyone, he was being held in a choke hold,” said Rodriguez’s grandmother Elsa Alfonso.
Prosecutors countered that Rodriguez killed Rivera in a jealous rage after his ex-girlfriend, Daimilsis Salgado, befriended him.
“There is nothing to celebrate today. The sentencing of Andy Rodriguez is a double-tragedy,” the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office said in a statement. “A deadly anger by a jealous young man sadly ended the life of Juan Carlos Rivera and has ruined two families.”
Rivera’s mother finished her plea for Judge Tunis to give Rodriguez life in prison with the following words:
“Your honor, nothing can bring my son back to me. It is my most sincere hope that this court sentences Andy Rodriguez to life in prison. This is not easy for me to say. I understand that he is a young man, and that his family is destroyed as well. However, he made the most brutal and awful choice and he must live with the consequences of his actions. As I will never have my son again, he should never be a free man again.
In addition to the sentence, after his prison term, Rodriguez must also talk to kids about the dangers of youth violence.