WILKES-BARRE — A man in the country illegally was sentenced Friday to spend a maximum of four decades in prison for a brutal Hazleton stabbing.
Nelson Hernandez Rivera, 36, originally of the Dominican Republic, pleaded guilty in October to a count of attempted criminal homicide, admitting he repeatedly stabbed former romantic partner Evelyn Almonte-Diaz on March 19, 2017. A charge of aggravated assault was withdrawn after his guilty plea.
He appeared in court before Luzerne County Judge Michael T. Vough on Friday for sentencing.
While Assistant District Attorney Brittany Quinn pushed for the upper sentencing range, defense attorney Joseph F. Sklarosky Sr. asked for leniency, noting the standard range of sentencing was a “long time.”
“Life’s a long time,” Judge Vough countered, referencing the mandatory sentence of a first-degree murder conviction. “He’s lucky she didn’t die.”
Through an interpreter, Almonte-Diaz recalled being stabbed in the chest repeatedly by Hernandez Rivera. Investigators said he attacked Almonte-Diaz inside Crystal Barbeque at 44 E. Broad St.
A security guard shot Hernandez Rivera in the leg during the attack.
Almonte-Diaz suffered life-threatening stab wounds to her face and chest.
Quinn noted that Hernandez Rivera is in the country illegally. He was previously deported, and he used pseudonyms, fake birth dates and Social Security numbers in attempts to avoid detection, authorities say.
Hernandez Rivera delivered a tearful apology in Spanish to Almonte-Diaz.
“I apologize for everything I did to you,” he said through an interpreter. “I’m a new man. I’m a man who made a mistake.”
Vough seemed unfazed by the apology.
“It’s not a mistake. It’s not a mistake when you stab someone you supposedly love,” said the judge. “A mistake is when you make a math error in your checkbook and a check bounces. This is an intentional act.”
Vough turned to Almonte-Diaz, apologizing for not being able to do more for her.
“But what I can do is keep him off the streets, and prevent this from happening to you or someone else,” he said.
Vough sentenced Hernandez Rivera to a total of 216 to 460 months in state prison, or 18 to more than 38 years.
Before the defendant was remanded, Sklarosky asked if he could have permission to see his children.
“Absolutely not,” came Vough’s response.
Reach Patrick Kernan at 570-991-6386 or on Twitter @PatKernan