Judge refuses guilty pleas in teen’s death

A Mesa County judge on Thursday declined to accept guilty pleas from a Clifton teenager charged in the shooting death of his friend.

Kenneth Cates, 16, had sought to plead guilty to a felony count of tampering with evidence, as well as misdemeanor counts of possession of a handgun by juvenile and false reporting, all related to the Sept. 1 death of 16-year-old Troy Martinez. Cates also is charged with manslaughter and second-degree assault.

Cates’ attorney, Stephen Laiche, had sought to take Cates’ case to trial on only the two latter, more serious charges. Laiche had agreed his client would be committed to youth detention for two years, in exchange for the limited guilty pleas.

Magistrate Judge Kevin Kennedy, however, said “piecemeal” pleas weren’t in Cates’ “best interests.”

“Let’s assume he goes to trial on the manslaughter count, and he beats it,” the judge told attorneys. “He would still be serving a two-year commitment.”

Cates will appear again this morning before District Judge Thomas Deister.

According to an arrest affidavit, Cates admitted to shooting Martinez as they were playing with a pistol at the home of Cates’ mother. Cates initially told Mesa County Sheriff’s Department deputies he was trying to disassemble a bullet when it exploded and fatally wounded Martinez.

Cates didn’t acknowledge the shooting until he was interviewed by an investigator, in the presence of his attorney, three weeks after the incident, the affidavit said.


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