Balderas Jorge  Sentenced

Jorge Balderas was sentenced Wednesday in Bonneville County Court.

In a kidnapping case that has lasted nearly two years, District Judge Bruce Pickett sentenced the fourth and final defendant to prison Wednesday. 

Jorge Balderas, 27, will have to serve a minimum of nine years in prison and up to 30 years. Pickett gave him credit for the 14 months he had spent incarcerated. 

Balderas pleaded guilty to second-degree kidnapping, aggravated battery and intimidation of a witness. Two other aggravated battery charges were dropped as part of a plea agreement. 

According to his codefendants, Balderas was the ringleader of the July 2020 kidnapping of a woman. The victim was tied to a chair and tortured for three days in the basement of the group's home. 

Codefendants Laura Zamudio and Sasha Martinez both reportedly hit the victim while she was unable to defend herself, and Martinez admitted to carving the letter "N" into the victim's face. The letter reportedly stood for "Nana," a nickname used by Martinez. 

The worst of the abuse, however, came from Balderas. He used torches to burn the victim's skin, as well as metal tools that were heated by Austin Alverado. The victim said Balderas used a cable to whip her. 

In a particularly brutal incident, Balderas poured lighter fluid under the victim's chair and lit it on fire.

During sentencing, Bonneville County Deputy Prosecutor Adam Garvin revealed that as the victim screamed in pain, Balderas told her to shut up. He then put the fire out with wire and told the victim if she screamed anymore, he would set her on fire again. 

The victim escaped her captors by slipping free of her bonds and crawling out a window. 

"The facts of this case are complete aggravation," Garvin said. 

During argument, Garvin presented several pictures of the victim's injuries, including bruises and burn marks. She was hospitalized after her escape. 

"The defendant lit (the victim) on fire and then stood there and watched her leg burn," Garvin said. 

The prosecution called for Idaho Falls Police Detective Rome Stiffler as a witness at the sentencing. During his testimony, Garvin presented several videos, including one in which Balderas threatened Martinez in a jail phone call, telling her to withdraw her statement against him. 

Several new videos were also presented, including jail calls Balderas made on May 5, May 8 and May 10. 

In the first video, Balderas tells the person on the other end that he was scared about his upcoming sentencing.

"That's what happens when you kidnap (expletive)," Balderas said. 

In another video, Balderas complains to the other person that his "brother" had disowned him. Garvin asked Stiffler what Balderas meant, and Stiffler revealed that the gang Balderas was involved in has since rejected him. 

"People are spitting on me and throwing me to the (expletive) side." Balderas said in the video.

Garvin cited the videos as showing Balderas lived a criminal lifestyle and did not have remorse for his actions. He said Balderas had made his living selling heroin for his gang before his arrest. 

Defense Attorney Daniel Taylor called Balderas' mother to testify. She told the court her son was "a good kid" who worked hard at jobs others did not want. She blamed the victim for Balderas' actions, saying the victim repeatedly returned to him after she told the victim not to be around him. 

Taylor asked for his client to be given retained jurisdiction, citing the support of his family who appeared in court. He said Balderas had a troubled childhood that included witnessing a sexual assault when he was a juvenile and exposure to drugs when he was 13 years old. 

Taylor also said his client should not be held responsible for his codefendants' actions.

"The codefendants made their choices as well," Taylor said. 

All of his codefendants have said they were afraid of Balderas, that it was not the first time someone had been tied to a chair. Martinez, in particular, told Pickett she was afraid Balderas would target her family members. 

Balderas gave a statement echoing his attorney's argument, saying his codefendants' actions were their own.

"I take responsibility for my actions, but I didn't hold their hands," Balderas said. 

Balderas asked Pickett to give him a chance on a rider program, saying he could turn his life around if he could get treatment for his heroin addiction.

"I'm not as bad as people think," Balderas said.

Garvin argued, however, that the case warranted a full prison sentence. 

"This type of crime would be diminished in the extreme if he did not receive an extreme sentence," Garvin said. 

Pickett said he was concerned that Balderas was still living "a gang lifestyle" while handing down his sentence. He also cited the images of the victim's injuries, and that he had previously seen such injuries from people who had escaped house fires. 

"Rarely do you see (those injuries) when they are inflicted on somebody," Pickett said.