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|02-27-03: Auglaize County Man will go to prison for
robbery at rest area
|By SHELLEY GRIESHOP
The Daily Standard
A 44-year-old Lima man was sentenced Wednesday morning to a total of 33
years in prison for charges relating to an armed robbery and assault at a Wapakoneta rest
area Nov. 19, 2002.
The sentencing for Jose Rojas, 1520 S. Central Ave., followed a two-day
trial last week in Auglaize County Common Pleas Court in Wapakoneta. At the trial, jurors
found Rojas guilty of two counts aggravated robbery and one count each felonious assault,
possessing a weapon under disability and fleeing and eluding.
Jurors also found the native Cuban guilty of three specifications of
the indictment, which accused him of possessing a firearm during the robbery at the rest
area along Interstate 75. Immigration issue
An investigation is ongoing by the Immigration and Naturalization
Service (INS) to determine if Rojas is a United States citizen. If found to be in the
country illegally, he could be deported.
Law enforcement reports said Rojas brandished a loaded gun and used it
to strike the head of a 56-year-old Michigan man inside a building in the rest area at
2:38 p.m. on the day of the robbery. Rojas stole the man's money clip and $323, which was
later found on Rojas when he was apprehended. Rojas also threatened a caretaker at the
rest area who authorities have not been able to locate since the incident.
Rojas fled the scene and led several law enforcement agencies on a
high-speed chase that ended in Lima near Rojas' home. Auglaize County Prosecutor Ed Pierce
said the case was solved by excellent police work by Cridersville Police Chief John Drake,
who tracked Rojas' vehicle as it came through the village after an all-points-bulletin
(APB) was broadcast by authorities. Videotape from a Cridersville police cruiser was used
at the trial to show the reckless nature in which Rojas traveled while fleeing police.
"He nearly caused three head-on collisions at high rates of speed
through multiple intersections," Pierce told the court, adding that Rojas illegally
passed several vehicles in no-passing zones.
Judge Frederick Pepple gave Rojas a 10-year and a six-year prison
sentence for the aggravated robbery charges, which are first-degree felonies. Rojas was
sentenced to eight years in prison for felonious assault, one year for possessing a weapon
under disability and five years for fleeing and eluding law enforcement officers.
Pepple ordered all the sentences to run consecutively except the
firearm specifications, which will run concurrently. Pepple also ordered Rojas' operator's
license revoked, a ruling Weller said would be moot.
"He'll probably be 70 (years old) by the time he gets out of
prison," Weller said.
Rojas spoke on his own behalf and maintained his innocence.
"I never saw it," Rojas said about the stolen money clip.
"...I didn't commit this crime, I didn't."
Two specifications charging Rojas as a repeat violent offender were
pending since the trial after Rojas' court-appointed attorney Mark Weller of Wapakoneta
asked Pepple for time to produce a witness in his client's defense. But at the start of
Wednesday's hearing, both Weller and Pierce agreed to dismiss the specifications based on
lack of evidence.
Before sentencing, Pierce asked the court to weigh the evidence of
several documents submitted. The documented information included Rojas' parole eligibility
report from a conviction in Michigan; certified copies of the conviction in Michigan for
breaking and entering vehicles, forgery and receiving stolen property; a report from
Nevada authorities detailing Rojas convictions for attempted robbery, burglary and larsony
in that state; information which questions Rojas' citizenship; and information about a
specific case in which Rojas assaulted victims in Michigan. The victim
Pierce told the court the victim at the rest area suffered injury and
serious emotional damage. He also stated Rojas is prone to recidivism and has shown no
remorse for his actions.
Weller argued that, although the events that occurred were serious,
"there are more serious incidents out there." He told the court it was
"preposterous" to impose the maximum sentence on any of the charges because the
whole incident occurred in a matter of a few seconds.
Weller told the court at the conclusion of the sentencing, that Rojas
intends to appeal his conviction. After Weller stated he did not wish to represent Rojas
in the appeal, Pepple agreed to request a state public defender for Rojas.
Before exiting the courtroom, Pepple left Rojas with one last thought.
"Mr. Rojas you say you're guilty of being at the wrong place at
the wrong time. I think you were at the right place to be caught, but I'm not going to
opinionate," Pepple said. "The sentence itself should speak loudly enough."
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