A Changed Perspective On Arrazola

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Looking back, we remember the anger we felt toward Rigoberto Arrazola last July when we learned he was driving drunk and caused the accident that took the lives of three Payson residents -- a mother, her son and her stepson.

We saw his face for the first time on the television news. He seemed arrogant. He refused to accept blame for what he did and he was uncooperative with police.

Department of Public Safety officers had to get a search warrant before they could test his blood alcohol content.

The Arrazola we saw at that time was a criminal. As the case wore on, we got to know more about the Goddard family and our rage at their loss grew.

In January, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Michael Gordon reduced Arrazola's bail from $180,000 to $35,000. The reduction allowed Arrazola to be released until his trial.

We were outraged. We suspected that Arrazola would run back to his native country of Mexico.

Looking at the Letters to the Editor sent to us around that time, our readers agreed and there was an uproar from the community.

On Jan. 27, the Payson Roundup wrote an editorial titled "Justice system choices baffle public." We expressed our doubts that Arrazola would stay in the country and we questioned the judge's decision.

Judge Gordon read the editorial and called a special hearing to further define Arrazola's release conditions. He invited Roundup reporter Max Foster to the session. Gordon explained that Arrazola was being released to a halfway house where he was monitored daily. Arrazola was to touch no alcohol during this period. Then the judge explained his reasoning.

The bail had been reduced because of the judge's concern for Arrazola's family. Arrazola's wages supported an extended family of nine people.

That announcement was the first hint that there might be more to the story of this person and his life beyond this case.

Our perception continued to change Friday afternoon when the man walking toward us in the courthouse hallway was not the cold-hearted man we were expecting.

His demeanor, his language, his obvious remorse and concern for his family presented us with a man we could understand.

Sitting in the judge's chambers right next to the man we had loathed since July, we felt compassion for him for the first time since the accident.

The judge announced that Arrazola was a religious man and that he takes care of his family. Even Arrazola's voice was full of disbelief at the events of the past year.

"I'm a good man," he said. "I help people."

When Arrazola announced that he would like two days with his family before accepting a settlement in the case, our guard went up again.

We had our doubts that we would ever see him again. He would take his chance to cross the border into Mexico this time, we believed.

But on Monday, Arrazola showed up, surprising many.

Whether he was changed by the process or we misjudged him, Arrazola took responsibility for his actions on Monday. He is 30 years old and will spend the better part of the next two decades in prison.

None of this brings back the lives of three innocent people or heals the lifelong pain that will be felt by the Goddard family. But there is value in a man stepping forward and taking responsibility for his actions.

This man violated the law. He got behind the wheel of his truck while intoxicated and took the lives of three people. He will pay the price for that.

Ultimately, we hope that all of us would be brave enough to take responsibility for our mistakes. We live in a world where there's not enough of that.

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