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Hernandez sentenced to penitentiary time for assaulting law enforcement

The Madison man who threatened law enforcement during an incident at a Madison convenience store last year will be spending time in the state penitentiary.  35-year-old Benjamin Hernandez was sentenced Friday in Lake County Circuit Court on one count of Aggravated Assault against a Law Enforcement Officer and also for being a habitual offender.  Hernandez had pleaded guilty to the charges last month as part of a plea agreement with the state, in which several other of the charges against him were dismissed.  

After more than an hour of testimony Friday, including from two of the victims in the case, Circuit Court Judge Pat Pardy sentenced Hernandez to serve 50 years in the state penitentiary.  Judge Pardy suspended 25 years of Hernandez’s sentence based on a number of conditions, some of which included that he pay fine, costs, and restitution of close to 33-hundred dollars and re-pay his court appointed attorney’s fees.  The judge gave him credit for 320 days he’s already served on the charges, and told Hernandez that if he doesn’t take advantage of the mental health and other services that are available while incarcerated that he will likely serve the remainder of the suspended sentence.  Judge Pardy said that Hernandez had a significant criminal record, with prior crimes of violence, a history of not treating his mental health issues, and had not shown any remorse for what he had done. 

Lake County Sheriff’s Office Patrol Sergeant Grant Lanning spoke Friday in court about how law enforcement responded to the incident at Classic Corner in Madison in September of last year after being advised that there was a man in a vehicle with a firearm and that he was suicidal.  Lanning said that Hernandez never indicated he wanted to take his own life and pointed his gun at law enforcement – harassing them.  He said Hernandez also held a shell for the gun out the window and never took advantage of any of the multiple resources he was given to surrender and get help.  Lanning said he was worried that he wouldn’t be going home to see his wife and kids that day.  

Lake County Chief Deputy Sarina Talich said that Hernandez continued to drink and throw things out of his car, all the while looking at the four officers closest to the vehicle, which were her, Lanning, Deputy Micah Hofman, and Madison Police Officer Ben Gant.  She said he refused to get out of the car, and when less than lethal rounds were shot at him, it seemed to make the situation worse.  Talich said that Lanning then fired a shot from his patrol rifle at Hernandez, which hit him in his left upper chest.  She said that there was a sense of relief at that point that the law enforcement officers there were going to be okay.  Talich testified that she has dealt with Hernandez on other occasions and that he has been controlling and manipulative.

Licensed Psychologist Dr. Thomas Price of Sioux Falls testified Friday to the fact that Hernandez had a number of mental health diagnoses, and that he was not taking full doses of his medication at the time of the incident.  Dr. Price also stated that Hernandez had consumed a large amount of alcohol that morning and that he and his mother were on their way to Avera Behavioral Health in Sioux Falls when they stopped at Classic Corner.  He said that Hernandez was untrusting of law enforcement and that he was feeling suicidal at the time of the incident. 

Hernandez spoke in Court Friday and apologized to the officers, the community, and his family.  He said he will never understand what they felt and that he was selfish, but that he cares about his future and wants to be there for his children.

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