MEDINA — A language barrier blocked a 22-year-old undocumented immigrant from Guatemala from entering a guilty plea Friday to killing a Brunswick man in a June car crash.
Mateo Ralios Delacruz had a Spanish language interpreter in court for his hearing Friday, but still could not understand a series of questions from Medina County Common Pleas Judge Christopher J. Collier.
His interpreter, John Shaklee, said that’s because Ralios speaks the Quiche dialect of Spanish, a Mayan form of the language common in his home country.
The change-of-plea hearing was delayed indefinitely until an appropriate interpreter can be found.
Ralios was set to plead guilty to aggravated vehicular homicide, aggravated vehicular assault and receiving a stolen motor vehicle. The charges are first-, third- and fourth-degree felonies, punishable by a total 17ﾽ years in prison.
In exchange for the plea, county Prosecutor Dean Holman said he would drop lesser charges of aggravated vehicular homicide and aggravated vehicular assault.
Ralios’ attorney, Job Perry, said his client hoped to come clean.
“Mr. Ralios wishes to admit what he’s done,” Perry said at the hearing.
Following court procedure, the judge began to ask Ralios a series of questions regarding his ability to plead guilty knowingly and voluntarily.
Before it became clear Ralios didn’t speak traditional Spanish, he told the judge he was not a U.S. citizen.
The judge warned Ralios that a felony conviction could mean deportation. Ralios told the interpreter that he didn’t know that was a possible consequence.
Collier then asked Ralios whether he wanted more time to speak with his attorney. Ralios seemed confused by the question, and then said he didn’t understand.
“He obviously doesn’t understand everything that’s being said,” Perry said.
“We need another interpreter,” Collier said. “We can’t have a change-of-plea hearing without this interpreter.”
Ralios is accused of crashing a stolen Ford Fusion into a 1996 Chrysler LHS on state Route 18 at 5:30 a.m. June 13 — injuring 34-year-old Eric Kaskevic, the driver, and killing 29-year-old Chad Nelson, the lone passenger.
Police said Ralios had a blood-alcohol level of 0.123. The legal limit in Ohio is 0.08.
Ralios did not have a driver’s license and was living in Fairlawn with family, police reported.
If convicted, Ralios will be barred permanently from having a driver’s license.
Contact reporter Nick Glunt at (330) 721-4048 or firstname.lastname@example.org.