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State presents witnesses on Day 2 PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 04 November 2010 10:27

Jury delivers verdict on Day 3


• Daily Leader
Jurors heard from several witnesses for the state, including two investigators and the victim himself, Tuesday in the first of four trials regarding an alleged carjacking in January.
Hector Mata was the first to take the stand Tuesday morning in the case of Jose Gil, 25, of Garden City. Mata is the victim of the alleged carjacking. 
Mata first testified that he saw a person go to the driver’s side of his vehicle with a pistol on Jan. 10, the night of the incident. This is one of two he saw approach the 2001 Blazer when he was at a taco stand on South Kansas.
Mata said one of the individuals told him, “Let’s take him for a ride,” when they approached the Blazer. When asked what instructions he was given after the two got into the car, he said one simply said, “Don’t drive stupid so the police wouldn’t stop us.”
On the night of Jan. 10, Mata allegedly drove the Blazer to a desolate field on Oak Street in Liberal, where he was thrown out of the vehicle. When questioned Tuesday, Mata said he was not sure of where the field was, but he did say it was a desolate field.
Mata said a person from the Suburban which followed the Blazer is the one who threw him out of the vehicle. That person asked him where his cell phone and wallet were, to which Mata told them they were in the middle of the Blazer.
Mata said he had $240 to $250 in his wallet, and this, along with his car, wheelchair and cell phone were taken from the scene. The Blazer was later recovered in Garden City.
Mata said he was pulled to the side of the Blazer, thrown down and asked to cover his face. He said he could not recognize the people doing this due to bandannas covering their faces. He did say, however, that three of the four people were Hispanic, and the fourth spoke with an American accent.
After throwing Mata to the ground, two of the individuals drove off with his Blazer, while the remaining two followed in the Suburban.
The first investigator to testify Tuesday was Russell Almes, a detective with the Liberal Police Department. Almes said through an interview with Karina Salazar, a waitress at the taco stand, it was determined that Mata was by himself at that location.
Almes said he was told that after ordering food, two Hispanic individuals came from a black Suburban and approached Mata’s vehicle. The detective said the individuals were wearing hoodie sweatshirts, khaki pants and black bandannas.
He said Salazar saw a silver firearm, which she knew was not a revolver, but was still a handgun. She said Gil did not make any efforts to help Mata following the alleged incident.
Almes first met Gil in February at the Finney County Sheriff’s Department. The suspect was being held in that county on other charges.
Almes interviewed one of Gil’s ex-girlfriends, who said a Mauricio committed the crime. Gil, whose middle name is Mauricio, often goes by that name rather than Jose, according to Almes.
Almes’ testimony also revealed that the Suburban belonged to Gil’s mother. The detective likewise described an incident prior to the carjacking that had taken place in north Liberal near 11th and Kansas in which the four suspects attempted to carjack another vehicle.
A witness at that location, Guillermo Delatorre, gave the tag number to law enforcement officials, which led to the identification of the vehicle belonging to Gil’s mother. Delatorre also identified, through the Almes interview, that Gil was the driver.
Almes was asked about the origin of the crime. He said through an interview with Gil, Juan Garza, 26, of Garden City, had arrived with his wife, Shannon, at the home of Matthew Perez, 27, of Dodge City. 
Almes said Garza came up with the idea of jacking a car, saying he needed money for Shannon for her condition. Gil did not say, however, who was involved in the conversations.
Gil later told Almes that Garza brought a firearm, and that the carjacking was to get money. None of the four suspects objected to the plan.
Gil’s conversation with Almes also confirmed that the suspects had stopped at the location at 11th and Kansas, and Gil said he was told that vehicle wasn’t good for a hit because there were children in the vehicle.
The Suburban then continued south on Kansas to the intersection at Pancake. Gil said he turned back to the taco stand just north of there because the suspects saw rims on a mini-red truck that caught their attention, and he saw that vehicle pull into the taco stand.
Gil told Almes that Garza had a gun and that Garza and Bobby Stensland, 19, of Dodge City, went up to the Blazer. Later, Garza got back in the Suburban, but Gil said he was not sure who got in the Blazer. He said either Garza or Stensland got in the Blazer with the other getting in the Suburban.
Gil told Almes that both vehicles went east on Oak, with the Suburban following the Blazer. The vehicles were driven about three to four blocks to the end of Oak.
Gil said Stensland and Garza took the Blazer and were told to meet he and Perez in Garden City. 
Almes then testified that Juan Garcia, an inmate in the Seward County Jail, had information about a plan the four had to steal a 1982 Buick Regal from the auto body department at Seward County Community College/Area Technical School.
In testimony, Christina Mauldin, a security guard at the school, said she had patrolled the area around the tech school at 3 and 8 p.m. on Jan. 10, and she noticed the Regal was not on the east side of the school at 3, but was there at 8.
Bree Downs, an auto body teacher at the vo-tech, said she had reported damage to the Regal, and it did not look accidental. Juan Rodriguez, the owner of the car, said he had left the vehicle with a friend to take to the vo-tech for a paint job. He later discovered multiple damages, including the steering column and gauges. Nothing had been taken from the car, however.
Garcia was later called to the witness stand, and initially, he was not willing to testify against Gil for fear of safety. District Judge Kim Schroeder told Garcia that he was called as a witness and as such would answer questions, being subject to contempt if he did not do so.
Garcia testified he met Gil in Seward County Jail and that he had sent a letter to law enforcement to incriminate Gil and his friends. Garcia said he and Gil came up with the plan to send the letter to detectives to allow law enforcement to know the whole story so he would not have to take the stand.
LPD detective Aaron Harvey was the last to take the stand Tuesday. Harvey testified he had been brought into the case in July, and on Sept. 22, he said he received a letter from Gil.
Harvey was then shown an aerial shot of Liberal, which focused on the field near Oak Street where Mata was dropped off. Prosecuting attorney Russell Hasenbank then had Harvey put stickers on locations related to the crime.
The detective had interviewed Delatorre about the incident, and the witness told him the Suburban was parked facing eastbound at the intersection of 10th and Kansas on Jan. 10.
Delatorre had also shown Harvey and LPD evidence technician Patsy Guinn how the vehicles were sitting.
Harvey later testified that he and Guinn met Mata at the scene, and the victim walked them through the crime.
Following Harvey’s testimony, the state rested its case, and the defense was scheduled to start its case Wednesday morning.
Gil, Garza, Perez and Stensland were arrested between Jan. 29 and March 1 by authorities in Ford and Finney counties, according to a statement from Liberal Police Capt. Pat McClurg.
Those arrests came following the alleged Jan. 10 incident in which a handicapped victim was forced out of his vehicle without his wheelchair and had to crawl for help.
The victim’s Blazer was later recovered in Finney County.
Jury finds Gil guilty of aggravated kidnapping, aggravated robbery and conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery
• Daily Leader
Jurors were sent out of the courtroom shortly before 2 p.m. Wednesday, and around 3:30 p.m., the foreman handed the verdict to District Judge Kim Schroeder in the Jose Gil case.
Gil was found guilty on one count each of aggravated kidnapping, aggravated robbery and conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery in charges related to an alleged carjacking in January.
The suspect was found not guilty, however, on one count each of theft of property, vehicular burglary and criminal damage to property.
Prior to closing arguments, Schroeder presented prosecuting attorney Russell Hasenbank and defense attorney Aaron Gipson with instructions for the jury.
Gipson wanted the aggravated kidnapping charge decreased to simply kidnapping, but Hasenbank said no evidence had been presented on the defendant’s behalf that he didn’t foresee what was going to happen with the events that happened on Jan. 10.
Gipson argued that testimony from some of the state’s witnesses said Gil didn’t know what would happen. Hasenbank said a plan was made in Garden City the night of the incident, and a new plan was formulated at 11th and Kansas in Liberal.
“He knew what was coming,” the attorney said.
Schroeder said evidence had been presented that an agreement was made in Liberal to jack a car, that Gil had said he was to be paid $300 for his help in the incident and that Gil was responsible for his actions.
After a lunch break, the judge began reading instructions to the jury about 1 p.m., and attorneys made closing statements.
In his argument, Hasenbank said Gil confessed and that there was other evidence to support the confession. He said that Gil had maintained that he was to be a good samaritan in the process and that he was supposed to get $300.
Hasenbank then pointed to Gil saying he believed because he was the driver of the Suburban, he was not guilty. But the attorney then said that Hector Mata, the alleged victim of the carjacking, had testified that he was taken by the shirt by Gil. It took an hour for Mata, said Hasenbank, to crawl for help after being thrown to the ground at a location on Oak Street in Liberal. 
Hasenbank said the suspects, Gil, 25, Juan Garza, 26, Bobby Stensland, 19, and Matthew Perez, 27, left Mata there rather than at the place at which the victim was met, a taco stand on South Kansas, to give the suspects time to get a way.
Gipson had earlier argued that no bodily harm was done, and therefore, the aggravated kidnapping charge should have been decreased. Hasenbank, however, said there were unnecessary acts of physical violence which constituted bodily harm and, in turn, constituted aggravated kidnapping.
The prosecutor also said the suspects took property from Mata, and there was a threat of a gun at the scene. This, he said, made for aggravated robbery.
He concluded by saying the evidence of the case pointed to conspiracy and that Gil knew what the group was going to do.
“He is guilty of each and every crime in this case,” Hasenbank said.
In his argument, Gipson said the evidence was simple, and Gil had made a statement to police, particularly to Liberal Police Department detective Russell Almes, who Gipson said had stated that nobody got hurt.
Gipson likewise pointed out that Hasenbank neglected to mention that trivial bruises resulting from physical violence do not constitute bodily harm.
The defense attorney said Mata did not say he was thrown out of his Blazer. He also said much of the evidence gathered in the case was done about 8 months after the alleged crime took place. This, he said, would distort memories of what had occurred.
Gipson continued to emphasize that no one got hurt, and he asked the jury to apply the facts to the instructions given to them. 
He added because the plan for the alleged crime started in Garden City, there was no conspiracy in Seward County. Hasenbank said the conspiracy continued from Garden to Liberal and that it was merely a continuation of the agreement to commit the crime.
“Anyone who helps them commit crimes is guilty as well,” Hasenbank said. “Everyone had a role.”
Sentencing for Gil is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Dec. 10 in Seward County District Court.
Stensland, Gil, Garza and Perez were arrested between Jan. 29 and March 1 by authorities in Ford and Finney counties, according to a statement from Liberal Police Capt. Pat McClurg.
Those arrests came following the alleged Jan. 10 incident in which a handicapped victim was forced out of his vehicle without his wheelchair and had to crawl for help.
The victim’s Blazer was later recovered in Finney County.

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