By JESSICA CRAWFORD
• Leader & Times
Juan Carlos Hernandez, charged with four counts of attempted murder in the first degree and two counts of misdemeanor domestic battery, pleaded not guilty Monday afternoon as he faced his arraignment hearing in the Seward County District Court before District Court Judge Clint Peterson.
Hernandez was arrested on the evening of Oct. 18 at the Bridge of the Americas while attempting to cross the border into Mexico.
“The U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Hernandez applied for entry,” Liberal Police Capt. Pat McClurg noted in a release. “Officers scanned the entry document and learned Hernandez had an outstanding warrant in Liberal. He was taken into custody and turned over to El Paso police.”
Hernandez, a resident of Chihuahua, Mexico, was wanted in Liberal for the attempted murder in the first degree of an acquaintance.
“On May 20, 2009, Juan Carlos Hernandez was arguing with his ex-girlfriend on a residential street,” the LPD Web site noted on July 15, 2009. “An acquaintance intervened and a physical confrontation ensued. After the confrontation, Hernandez got into his vehicle and struck the male acquaintance. Hernandez turned around and ran over the man a second time. Hernandez also struck another male that came to the aid of the fallen man.”
Hernandez, who is under the representation of Daniel Schowengerdt, is being charged with four counts of attempted murder and two counts of misdemeanor domestic battery. Several of the first degree murder charges have an alternative charge of aggravated battery. Assistant District Attorney Russell Hasenbank said there is an important reason for the alternative charges.
“He is charged with attempted first degree murder, but you never know how the evidence is going to come into court,” he said. “There are certain types of charges, like attempted first, when the judge instructs the jury, he instructs them on attempted first, second No. 1, second No. 2, but aggravated battery is not in that column. When we charge something, if there is any possibility that the jury might look at that and say, ‘Well, you know what, we think it was really more like this –’ we don’t want to miss the charge because we didn’t charge it right. So, we do that as an alternative.”
Hasenbank said Hernandez is charged with allegedly running over an individual with his vehicle. However, the other charges of attempted murder came about due to individuals trying to help the injured man.
“There is a significant number of individuals that tried to help (the victim),” he said. “He tried to run after them with his vehicle. He actually struck the father. That attempt to do that, that is what led to those charges. There was the victim himself, and three other individuals tried help him.”
Hasenbank asked Judge Peterson to move the case on to a status conference on April 8 at 2 p.m. Peterson reminded the court that Hernandez is to be considered innocent until proven guilty.