FLORENCE — Before a Casa Grande man was sentenced Monday to seven years in prison for a hit-and-run crash last summer, the motorcyclist he struck and injured stood up in court to publicly forgive him.

Walking into the courtroom using a cane, Michael Aviles stood across from the man who left him seriously injured and lying on Earley Road in July 2017.

He was riding his motorcycle when a white vehicle ran a stop sign and hit him in the middle of an intersection. Aviles was airlifted to a Chandler hospital and had part of his leg amputated.

Benito Garcia, 26, was later charged with leaving the scene of an accident. Court documents show Garcia initially denied driving his vehicle on the day of the accident.

But on Monday, Garcia admitted responsibility in court and apologized to the victim for his actions.

Aviles told the defendant he’s gone through much pain and struggle since the accident, but he ultimately forgives Garcia for leaving him in the street.

Garcia added that he’s changed significantly over the last year, taking classes while in jail in order to better himself.

Pinal County Superior Court Judge Lawrence Wharton had some choice words for the defendant, calling his actions “some of the worst human behavior” he’s seen in court.

He mentioned how investigators observed the body damage on Garcia’s vehicle was covered in spray paint, suggesting actions were taken to cover up the accident.

There’s a lot Garcia has to do in order to make up for what he’s done, the judge added.

According to court records, Garcia has previously been convicted of multiple aggravated assault charges in Pinal and Pima counties.

Garcia will have his driving privileges suspended as part of the terms of his plea agreement. He was credited with 329 days already served in jail.

Suspect brought in from Idaho

FLORENCE — A 28-year-old Idaho man was extradited to Pinal County this month to face child-molestation charges from crimes allegedly committed in Arizona City more than a decade ago.

Cody Lara was indicted last month on four counts of child molestation and three counts of sexual abuse.

The offenses allegedly took place between 2002 and 2008, according to the indictment.

Lara pleaded not guilty to the charges during his arraignment in Superior Court on Friday.

The Pinal County Sheriff’s Office filed charges after someone came forward and described multiple encounters.

The alleged victim, now 23, told PinalCentral these encounters started when she was 6 or 7 years old. PinalCentral generally does not identify victims in cases that involve sex crimes.

She said she didn’t report these incidents to law enforcement until a couple years ago because she was afraid, confused and ashamed. It took time for her to understand that what allegedly happened was not appropriate, she added.

After a grand jury indicted Lara last month, a warrant was issued and authorities apprehended him in Idaho.

Lara is being held at the Pinal County jail on a $200,000 bond.

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— Staff Reports

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