A Hutchinson man convicted of shooting and killing another local man in the summer of 2018 in a drug deal gone wrong was sentenced Friday to just under 11 years in prison.
District Judge Tim Chambers told the parties he could not find compelling reasons to depart from state sentencing guidelines and sentenced Curtis Garcia, 27, to serve 10 years and 11 months, the standard sentence for second-degree murder.
Chambers ordered that Garcia receive credit for the time he has been in jail and advised him that he could earn up to 15% credit for good behavior, which combined could cut three years off his term.
Garcia pleaded guilty in September to the June 26, 2018, slaying of Norman Cushinberry, 18. As part of a plea, prosecutors dropped the charge from first-degree murder to second-degree murder, which was unintentional but committed recklessly.
Plea for mitigation
In arguing for a lesser sentence, Garcia’s appointed attorney, Greg Bell, acknowledged Garcia was engaged in illegal activities by trying to sell a quarter-pound of marijuana to Cushinberry and another man, Tristan Delaney.
But, Bell noted, Cushinberry and Delaney were the aggressors, first trying to cheat Garcia using counterfeit money, then attempting to rob him after a second sale was arranged.
“When he (Garcia) arrived in the 500 block of Washington, Mr. Cushinberry got in the passenger side of the vehicle,” Bell said. “Once he was in the vehicle, Mr. Cushinberry brandished a firearm, a Ruger 9 mm semiautomatic. He (Cushinberry) then asked him (Garcia) to turn off the vehicle, which Mr. Garcia did. That appeared to be a signal for Mr. Delaney, who was across the street on a porch. When he stood on the porch, a blanket came off, and he came across the street brandishing a 12-gauge shotgun.
“When he saw them both armed, Mr. Garcia grabbed a .380 semiautomatic pistol he had in the vehicle. Mr. Delaney kept coming, so he fired and dropped him. Then there was an altercation in the pickup during which Mr. Cushinberry was shot, which ended up being fatal ... I’m relying on a set of facts that established Delaney and Cushinberry conspired to steal drugs from the defendant using counterfeit money, and when that didn’t work, the conspired and attempted to rob him ... He did go with a firearm and to sell drugs, but if not for the actions of Delaney and Cushinberry in trying to rob him, we would not be here.”
Bell also argued that the court should consider not counting Garcia’s two prior misdemeanor convictions, which moved him up on step on the sentencing guidelines, because they dated to 2016, but that it should consider his young age and that he has “three young children who need a father.”
Bell asked for Chambers to cut the sentence in half, to 66 months.
State seeks extra time
Reno County Assistant District Attorney Andrew Davidson asked Chambers to give Garcia the aggravated sentence under sentencing guidelines of 11 years, 6 months.
“Norman was a young person whose life was taken,” Davidson said. “It was a mistake he made, but I’d argue he didn’t deserve to die ... (Garcia) went to the residence to deal drugs, and he went to the residence with a firearm. In the end, there is blood on his hands, Mr. Cushinberry’s blood. He could have made the decision not to sell drugs or not to have gone back a second time, but his greed for selling drugs, in the end, was partially responsible. Then he cold-bloodedly left the body on the scene.”
Also addressing the court was Cushinberry’s older sister, who spoke on behalf of her family.
She noted her brother, a recent graduate, didn’t get the chance to get married and come home to a family. She said the family misses his “bright smile and big hugs.”
She called the killing cruel and brutal, noting that after dumping Cushinberry’s body on the curb, Garcia ran over and broke both his legs, then left him in the street to die.
Garcia also spoke briefly, apologizing to both Cushinberry’s family “for their loss and pain,” and his own for their suffering and embarrassment.
In declining the departure, Chambers said the facts as recited by Bell were sufficient for a first-degree murder conviction. The judge also pointed out that when Garcia returned for the second attempt at a drug deal, he had his young children in the back seat of his pickup.
“By the grace of God, no child was hurt,” Chambers said. “That negates any mitigation. You’re engaged in drug activity, and you bring your children, and then you engage in a shootout ... Kansas law says the appropriate sentence is 131 months, and I can’t find any substantial and compelling reason to depart.”
Delaney, who was also shot but not seriously injured during the incident, was also charged in the case and previously pleaded guilty to the same charge as Garcia. He is scheduled for sentencing 2:30 p.m. Nov. 1, before District Judge Trish Rose.