City teen 'lucky' for brief stay in prison


NASHUA - A judge told a Nashua teenager who admitted to two serious assaults that he was lucky to be going to prison for such a short time, given his crimes. Matthew Garcia, 18, pleaded guilty to separate assault charges during a sentencing hearing Wednesday in Hillsborough County Superior Court. Garcia admitted to stabbing Kenneth Lawson in the shoulder blade with a butcher knife in May 2007, giving the victim a collapsed lung. Garcia stabbed the Townsend, Mass., man because of a romantic rivalry, police said. Garcia also pleaded guilty to what police deemed a gang-related attack on two younger teens outside the Salem Street playground in September 2007. Garcia struck one on the head with a serrated brass knuckles-type weapon, resulting in a gash and caused a minor injury to another teen. Judge Diane Nicolosi told Garcia he was "lucky" that Hillsborough County Assistant Attorney Catherine Devine had prosecuted his case, because she "sees potential for you turning around your life," Nicolosi said. The judge continued, saying she'd communicated three times with attorneys involved in the case, each time trying to understand their rationale for the suggested prison time. In New Hampshire, second-degree assault is punishable by 3-1/2 to seven years in prison, and first-degree assault is punishable by 7-1/2 to 15 years in prison. However, in a plea bargain negotiated this summer between Devine and Shawn Sweeney, Garcia's Nashua-based lawyer, the teen will serve concurrent sentences of 2-1/2 to seven years in state prison. He also gets six days of credit in the first charge and 409 days of credit for the second because of the time he's already spent in jail. "You're a lucky man to be doing as short a time in prison as you are," Nicolosi said. She told Garcia he was fortunate to have not killed the man he stabbed and that she hoped prison would rehabilitate him. In court, Garcia simply answered a series of questions from Nicolosi about whether he understood the process. At the end of the hearing, he turned back to a small group of people in the courtroom and waved.
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