Commuted Sentence for Driver Who Killed Young Man Causes Outcry

On 1 December 2003, Ramón Jorge Ríos Salgado drove dangerously fast down highway A7 causing a hit and run that left one dead and one in critical condition. He continued to highway AP-7 where he did a U-turn and drove the wrong way down the highway. Vehicles swerved into opposing lanes to avoid collision but one person couldn't. The car's driver, 25-year-old José Alfredo Dolz España, died upon collision and 21-year-old passenger Paula Catalina Sarraqueta Sancho was left seriously injured.

Kamikaze driver Rois Salgado was captured driving the wrong way down AP-7 by highway security cameras. Photo from Facebook page.

Kamikaze driver Rois Salgado was captured driving the wrong way down AP-7 by highway security cameras. Photo from Facebook page.

On 27 December 2011, after eight years of litigation and appeals, the Supreme Court made its final decision on the case [es], ruling in favor of upholding the Provision Court of Valencia's 13-year prision sentence for “a driving offense that showed blatant disregard for the life of others and proved the perfect storm for a person's death. This a crime of grave injury and hurt.”

Then, on 7 December 2012, the Council of Ministers, at the request of the Minister of Justice, Alberto Ruiz Gallardón, passed Royal Decree 1668/2012 [es], which pardoned the murder and consequently commuted the prison sentence in lieu of a €4380 fee. The decree was passed despite disapproval from victims, judges and attorneys. Ríos Salgado only spent ten months in jail.

The decree, which was made public on Wednesday, left Spanish citizens dumbfounded. Minister Gallardón provided no explanation to justify the act, but received immense criticism from colleagues:

In a press conference the Vice President acknowledged “we don't always get it right” with these type of decisions and the the Ministry of the Interior declared the pardon to be “an indication that in the future we will have to be more attentive to such issues.”

The Stop Accidents assocation states on their website:

This is a difficult thing for the families of the vicitims to process, but more than anything it is a scandal and an embarrassment for society as a whole.(…)

We cannot find closure for the death of one person, and the suffering of even more, with one single prison report. What makes it even worse is the ability of one influential law office to lobby for such unjust and convoluted decisions. (…)

What this decision has done with a single pen stroke is erase the executive's credibility in the eyes of citizens regarding its commitment against kamikazes and the real danger they present on the road and to the individual.

Conveniently, the law firm that presented the defense against the homicide charge is the same firm where José Ruiz-Gallardón Utrera [es], the Minister's son, works. Although he personally did not take the case, Ignacio Astarloa did, who is the brother of a high-up party official who maintains a tight relationship with PP leadership.

Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, ministro de justicia. Imagen de la página de facebook «Por la eliminación de la mitad de los puestos políticos en España»

Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, Minister of Justice. Image from “Rid Spain of half of its political positions” Facebook page.

Social media users take a clear stance that its government has confused majority consensus for executive power. The general impression is that the government protects its interests at all costs, with complete disregard for what the people say or think.

Jose Antonio Martinez Plaza comments on the «Rid Spain of half of its political positions”» Facebook page:

The government is above the law (the law permits them to be so) and so when justice actually condemns one of their cronies (which is ironic given the reality that they're the ones who appoint the judges and prosecutors), politicians turn to executive power to save them, or in this case to family connections…

Manuel Del Amo Merino writes on Facebook page:

Now that we know who to turn to to make certain we get off. Enemies beware!

On his blog Bokabulario Pedro Fernández Barbadillo posts the article «The juicy pardon!!», where he says:

Loreto Dolz, sister of the victim, shares her family's digust for the pardon. Photo taken from the Ramón García Cope Facebook page.

Loreto Dolz, sister of the victim, shares her family's digust for the pardon. Photo taken from the Ramón García Cope Facebook page.

This is a violation not only to the basic principle of justice but also to the victim's reparation of inflicted pain; it's unjust and an outrageous violation of power. Despite the law and courts sufficiently driving the delegitimization of the Executive, some victims still take justice into their own hands.

According to the blog Jomen42, road safety expert and attorney José Pérez Tirado, spokesman for the Association of Traffic Victims, said:

It's a disgrace. The message that Gallardón has given us is that he does as he pleases, like a Roman Emperor.(…)

We're completely disillusioned. This sends a very negative message. Now it seems that one can get drunk, drive recklessly and kill a person and it's all okay because their sentence will later be pardoned.

Soynadie tweeted:

@wwwformy: Monday's Special: 2×1 pardons for the clients of Gallardón's son.

The general weariness of these types of abuses that existed prior to this pardon laid the foundation for Arantxa Fernandez Valderrama's comment on the Rid Spain of half of its political positions:

What I would love to see is Gallardón hire this guy as his choffer. Then he should test his luck… Who knows, maybe they'd crash.

The opposition party has called for the prosecutor's office to conduct a thorough investigation of the possible abuse of power [es] used to grant this pardon.

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