Holyoke man gets 5 years for assault, drug charges

Hampshire County Courthouse in Northampton

Hampshire County Courthouse in Northampton FILE PHOTO

By JAMES PENTLAND

Staff Writer

Published: 04-19-2024 9:53 AM

Modified: 04-19-2024 11:34 AM


NORTHAMPTON — A Holyoke man arraigned last month in Hampshire Superior Court on drug trafficking and assault charges was sentenced Thursday to five years in prison after pleading guilty to most of the charges he faced.

Hector Diaz Torres, 22, admitted to charges of armed assault with intent to murder, assault with a dangerous weapon, three counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and two counts of conspiracy to violate drug law. The commonwealth dropped charges of trafficking in cocaine and distribution of fentanyl as part of the plea agreement.

Clerk Magistrate Harry Jekanowski pronounced the sentence, under which Diaz Torres will serve not less than five years in prison — and not more than five years and a day — at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center on each of the seven counts he faced, with all sentences to run concurrently with the first. He was given credit for the 94 days he has spent behind bars since his arrest on the assault charges.

Assistant District Attorney Alexa Pascucci, summarizing the prosecution’s case, said the drug charges against Diaz Torres were brought after the State Police Anti-Crime Task Force executed a search warrant at a Jackson Street apartment in Northampton, Dec. 6. Police found Diaz Torres and one target of the search, Evelyn Munoz, in the apartment along with a “trafficking weight” of cocaine (18 to 36 grams), a large quantity of fentanyl, a scale, weights and packaging.

Munoz and Diaz Torres’ girlfriend, Katherine Feliciano, have been charged in Superior Court with cocaine trafficking and distribution of a class A drug and are free on $2,000 bail.

The other charges arose from an incident Jan. 13 when Diaz Torres attacked a man who had come to Feliciano’s residence in Northampton trying to buy drugs, Pascucci told the court. He ordered the man into the basement and beat him with a metal pipe. After desisting briefly when Feliciano intervened, Diaz Torres charged at the man, screaming that he was going to kill him, and then stabbed him in the chest with a knife.

The victim was taken to hospital, where staff told him the knife wound was close to being fatal. When police questioned Diaz Torres, he lied repeatedly to them, Pascucci said.

Questioned by Judge Karen Goodwin, Diaz Torres admitted that he was guilty of the offenses described by the prosecution.

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Explaining the plea deal, Pascucci said this was not Diaz Torres’ first brush with the law. At the time of the knife attack, he was on pretrial release for the felony drug charges and on probation in Hampden County for weapons offenses. He served a jail sentence in 2020 for assault to rob with a handgun, she said.

The assault victim, who has not been charged, was prepared to go forward with the case but supported the plea deal, Pascucci said. While the maximum sentences on the criminal counts range as high as 20 years, she said Diaz Torres still faced significant liability, being subject to both the armed career criminal and habitual offender statutes, which result in stiffer penalties should he be convicted of another crime.

Defense attorney Robert Opsitnick noted that his client is “very young,” and said he was taking responsibility.

“He’ll get out (of jail) well before he’s 30,” he said.

Diaz Torres has had time to reflect on his past, Opsitnick said, including what he described as a traumatic time in Puerto Rico.

“He wants to find something better to do,” he said.

Goodwin, calling the sentence “stiff but fair,” accepted the plea agreement as presented.