A traveling businessman convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the drug-induced death of a Monterey woman was sentenced to the maximum term of nearly 12 years in prison on Tuesday.
Gabriel Martinez, 37, of Paradise was joined in court by supporters from his hometown before Judge Julie Culver handed down the term of 11 years and 8 months.
He will have to serve at least 85 percent of his term before he is eligible for parole.
Martinez originally faced a murder charge and a possible life sentence, but the count was changed to manslaughter when he agreed to have a bench trial without a jury last month.
According to trial testimony, Martinez was in Monterey on business on June 9, 2011, when he met Lisa Groveman, 30, at an Alvarado Street nightclub and gave her methadone pills at her request. The next morning, officers summoned by Martinez found her dead in bed of a drug overdose.
Martinez's attorney Larry Biegel asked Culver for a four-year sentence, citing his client's lack of a criminal record and the fact that he turned himself into authorities.
He noted the prison terms for several drug charges and enhancements add up to more than the primary charge of involuntary manslaughter, which carries possible sentences of two, three or four years.
He said he plans to file an immediate appeal. One of the main grounds will be a legal angle that was much discussed at trial.
Culver ruled an enhancement of causing great bodily injury would be allowed, while Biegel argued the law says the enhancement can't be applied to murder or manslaughter counts because those imply great bodily injury has occurred.
Culver, agreeing with prosecutor Steve Somers, said it could still be applied to Martinez's two other counts of supplying illegal drugs to Groveman and her friend.
Biegel argued against the enhancement, which "significantly" increased Martinez's sentence.
"We respectfully take extreme issue on some of the rulings of the court regarding great bodily injury," Biegel said after Tuesday's sentencing hearing. "You're already being punished for murder and manslaughter. It is part and parcel of that."
According to trial testimony, Martinez retrieved methadone pills from his hotel room at Groveman's request the night they met. He and Groveman ended up at her apartment in the 500 block of Aguajito Road. In a videotaped police interview shown at trial, Martinez said Groveman started breathing strangely and drooling about 5 a.m.
When he left the apartment hours later, Groveman was "breathing on her own," Martinez told police, and he left a cellphone next to her head so he could check on her.
In other statements, he told police she was "unconscious" when he left.
Martinez went to Red's Donuts on Alvarado Street, and when he called about 10 a.m. Groveman didn't respond, he said. He returned to check on Groveman because, he said, his intuition told him something was wrong.
After he alerted a patrol officer about 11 a.m., she was found dead.
Prosecutor Steve Somers asked for the maximum sentence, noting Martinez's delay in seeking help.
A pathologist testified "Martinez could have saved her life if he had promptly summoned aid for her," Somers said in an emailed statement.
Biegel said his appeal should be filed before the end of the week.
"The sad thing for me was that there was no accounting of his legitimate remorse and that this did not have to be the maximum," Biegel said.
Julia Reynolds can be reached at 648-1187 or firstname.lastname@example.org.