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Photo of Matt M. McClenahen
Photo of Matt M. McClenahen

At Sentencing, No Mercy for a Robber who Showed No Mercy

On Behalf of | Apr 10, 2013 | Sentencing

Harsh sentences for victimless crimes are usually unjust, while it is hard to feel any sympathy at all for someone like Richard Martinez, better known in Central Pennsylvania as the “Centre Hall Mountain Robber.” From a legal standpoint, his case took some unusual turns, which are worthy of explanation. On May 5, 2012, the then 19 year old Martinez confronted four 14 year old hikers. He threatened them with a box cutter, ordered them to the ground, and stole three iPods. Just for good measure, he kicked one of the boys in the head, breaking the boy’s eye socket. Martinez entered an open plea to very serious charges, including robbery and aggravated assault. Judge Pamela Ruest imposed an aggregate sentence of eight to 16 years.

One unusual aspect to this case is that Martinez entered “open pleas.” This means that he did not have any type of plea agreement in place. That is highly unusual. Normally, the Centre County DA’s Office will make some type of plea offer, to make it more appealing for a defendant to plead guilty, rather than going to trial. I am not sure whether the DA’s Office did not make Martinez a plea offer due to the heinous nature of his crimes, or whether their plea offer was so harsh that Martinez’s attorney felt the defendant had a better shot at a more lenient outcome by entering an open plea.

The other unusual aspect to this case is the fact that the Commonwealth, rather than the defendant, filed a motion to modify the sentence. Defendants file post-sentence motions all the time, seeking a sentence reduction. Normally, the judge will simply maintain the previously entered sentence. In this case, Assistant District Attorney Nate Boob asked Judge Ruest to impose an even harsher sentence than the original sentence imposed last fall. Boob noted that the judge should have used the “deadly weapons enhancement”
sentencing matrix, rather than the usual sentencing guidelines. In Pennsylvania, the sentencing guidelines are considerably harsher in cases where a defendant used or possessed a deadly weapon while committing the crime. In Martinez’s case, it lead to his eight to 16 year sentence being raised to 10.5 to 21 years.

Fortunately, Centre County, PA does not have a lot of violent crime. This is a safe place to live. Therefore, when violent crime does occur, the judges and prosecutors in this area seem to take a much tougher stance than their colleagues in other counties, who are far more used to thuggery.

Matt McClenahen is a criminal defense attorney in State College, PA, with estensive experience representing defendants charged with violent offenses. 

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