Man sentenced to jail for attempted aggravated robbery in St. George park

St. George Police officers investigate the area around the restrooms at the Slick Rock park were a man was allegedly robbed at knifepoint and gunpoint, St. St. George, Utah, Aug. 27, 2018 | File photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A local man was sentenced to jail Tuesday for his involvement in an armed robbery reported last summer at a park in St. George where the victim was held at knife and gunpoint.

Angel Isaiah Vazquez-Mendoza, 20, of St. George, appeared before 5th District Court Judge Jeffrey C. Wilcox for sentencing on second-degree attempted aggravated robbery and misdemeanor drug possession after pleading guilty to the charges May 14.

The case stems from an incident reported Aug. 28 when Vazquez-Mendoza, and another suspect, robbed a man near the restrooms at the Slick Rock Park at 2395 E. Riverside Drive. The defendants took the victim’s jacket, wallet, watch, hat and other items. They were later identified through different “photo line-ups,” and other evidence. Both men were later arrested for the crimes and transported to jail, according to probable cause statements connected to the arrests.

Arguments by both sides continued for more than 15 minutes during Tuesday’s sentencing hearing before Judge Wilcox handed down his ruling.

Defense attorney Ken Combs asked the court to take into consideration his client’s age, which was 19 at the time of the arrest, saying, “My client is young and was not in his right state of mind,” when the offense took place. Referring to his client, Combs said, “Today he knows what he has to do to make things right.”

St. George Police officers investigate the area around the restrooms at the Slick Rock park were a man was allegedly robbed at knifepoint and gunpoint, St. St. George, Utah, Aug. 27, 2018 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Combs added that the court process has caused Vazquez-Mendoza to acknowledge the seriousness of the crime, and said his client “knows he has more time to do, and is slowly turning things around.”

“The young man that stands before the court today is not the same young man that stood before the victim that night,” Combs said referring to Vazquez-Mendoza.

Prosecutor James Weeks addressed the court saying the presentence report recommendations should be followed, and the defendant should serve the same amount of time as his co-defendant, 18-year-old Jesse P. Bozek, who is serving 240 days in jail.

Weeks also agreed the defendant is young, but said Vazquez-Mendoza was involved in a serious crime. “This was something that was more serious than most people would do in their whole life.”

When it came down to sentencing, Judge Wilcox ordered Vazquez-Mendoza to serve 240 days in jail and placed him on 48-months supervised probation, saying the defendant “was equally involved in the crime and should be sentenced equally as well.”

Additionally, he was ordered to pay a combined fine of $2,500, submit a DNA sample, complete a substance abuse evaluation and earn his GED or High School equivalent.

The prison term of 1-15 years in prison, $10,000 fine and the 180 days in jail for the misdemeanor charge were stayed.

Judge Wilcox also addressed the defendant, saying, “I urge to to realize you are too young and too smart to spend the rest of your life in the criminal justice system.”

He added Vazquez-Mendoza’s age is a double-edged sword, with an increase in impulsiveness that comes with youth, countered by the fact the defendant also has his whole life ahead of him that will give him the opportunity to turn his life around. He also added that Vazquez-Mendoza has the love and support of his family which is an important factor, evidenced by the fact that nearly a dozen of Vazquez-Mendoza’s family members were present during sentencing.

Judge Wilcox said Vazquez-Mendoza is a good candidate for the DORA program, an acronym for the Drug Offender Reform Act that provides funding for the Department of Corrections and other entities statewide to offer expedited treatment to qualified offenders. The goal of the program is to shorten the time from conviction to beginning treatment for eligible offenders with a history of substance abuse with the aim of reducing the rate of recidivism.

Combs also asked the state to consider a two-level reduction of the charge, from a second-degree felony to a class A misdemeanor, if the defendant completes the terms of his sentence successfully, a request Judge Wilcox said he may consider at a later time.

The defendant was given two days to get his affairs in order and was instructed to arrive at the jail by 5 p.m. Thursday to begin serving his sentence.

This report is based on statements from police or other responders and may not contain the full scope of findings. Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.

St. George News reporter Mori Kessler contributed to this report.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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