By Joe Gorman
A judge in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court on Friday went 21/2 years over a recommended 10-year sentence for a man who pleaded guilty to his role in a chase and shooting in March.
Sergio Gonzalez, 28, of South Garland Avenue, received the sentence after pleading guilty to four counts of felonious assault, aggravated robbery with a firearm specification and improperly handling a firearm in a motor vehicle.
Assistant Prosecutor Martin Desmond said Gonzalez was with another man, Brandon Jackson, who got into a fight in a bar and left with Gonzalez and another woman early March 3. As they did, Jackson fired several shots into the air.
Gonzalez drove Jackson to his home, and Jackson went in and came back out with an assault rifle, then ordered Gonzalez to look for the men with whom he was fighting.
They spotted a car that looked like it belonged to the men, and Jackson fired several more shots, then Gonzalez ran the car off the road, but it was the wrong car. Gonzalez then got out of the car as a man stopped, seeing what he thought was an accident and tried to help.
Instead, Gonzalez pistol-whipped the man and took his car. He was caught by police who were nearby after he drove away and fled the car. Officers tracked him through his footprints in the snow.
Desmond said Gonzalez cooperated, and investigators were able to build a case against Jackson because of his information. Jackson also pleaded guilty and is looking at an 18-year sentence when he is sentenced at a later date.
Desmond read a statement by the man who was pistol-whipped, Jose Pagan, who said he was coming home from work when he saw what he thought was an accident and stopped to help.
“It turned into a nightmare,” Pagan’s statement said.
Pagan said he was angry, but he is trying to forgive Gonzalez because that is what his faith tells him to do.
Judge Krichbaum said he understands why attorneys have to make plea bargains, but he also added that he was troubled by Gonzalez’s behavior because he termed it “a great example of what’s wrong in our community.”
“Making deals with bad guys and giving them a break because they tell you what happened is so distasteful to me,” Judge Krichbaum said. “It’s very difficult for me to swallow.”
Gonzalez apologized for any harm he did and said he was afraid Jackson would shoot him. He said he did not know Jackson had a gun when he returned to his house until he got back in the car. Judge Krichbaum told him he could have driven away after dropping off Jackson or gotten out of the car, but Gonzalez said he was scared.
“I didn’t want my life to be taken either. That’s why I drove,” Gonzalez said.
“Put the car in park. That’s the end of the story,” Judge Krichbaum answered.
Besides Pagan, another victim was present but chose not to address the court. The man was crying, however, during the proceeding.