Courier staff writer
ALAMOSA — Two men who participated in a botched home invasion last summer are about to join one of their co-defendants in the state prison system.
Twelfth Judicial District Judge Pattie Swift on Thursday sentenced Mario Daniel Aragon to a maximum 16 years in the Colorado Department of Corrections. She also ordered David Albert Cordova to serve 12 years in prison.
Both men, who received credit for 345 days served, previously pleaded guilty to enhanced counts of attempted aggravated robbery. However, they originally faced far more serious charges for their roles in a violent Aug. 29, 2012 assault on a pair of alleged drug dealers.
The district attorney’s office initially charged the 40-year-old Aragon with first-degree kidnapping, aggravated robbery, second-degree assault, unlawful use of a stun gun, conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery, second-degree burglary and misdemeanor theft.
Cordova, 21, faced almost identical charges, but he originally stood accused of robbery instead of attempted robbery.
The two men, along with co-defendants Joseph Taylor Ankeney and Colin Parker Young, forced their way into a State Avenue home in a failed attempt to rob the male victim of his drugs, money and electronics.
According to a pre-sentence investigation report, victim Thomas Williamson owed someone a large debt, and Aragon was there to collect it. If he succeeded in collecting the full $60,000, Aragon would have received $15,000, which he planned to share with his younger accomplices.
“It clearly shows that he’s the leader,” Deputy District Attorney Mark Loy told the court.
Defense attorney Barbara Zollars, who appeared on behalf of Aragon, acknowledged her client’s wrongdoing. But she also faulted Williamson for allegedly participating in crimes of his own — namely, drug dealing.
“Mr. Williamson also made some choices here,” Zollars said. “Mr. Williamson chose to engage in an activity that is high-risk.”
However, Judge Swift found that the law makes no distinctions between crimes against criminals and crimes against ordinary people.
“Just because someone else is violating the law doesn’t give you the right,” she told Aragon.
As she handed down both sentences, the judge took the seriousness of their crime into consideration, as well as the threats they posed to the general public’s safety.
“It was a very violent act, (it was) a very frightening act and it was the kind of thing that makes everyone feel less safe in their homes,” she said.
While all four men have now acknowledged their involvement in the attack, the judge found that Aragon was more culpable, given the fact that he is nearly twice as old as his co-defendants.
“You’ve had much more time to figure out how to behave,” she said.
Young also testified that Aragon masterminded the home invasion.
“He told us what the plan was, how things were going to go down, what to do,” the 20-year-old man said on Thursday. “He gave each of us specific jobs to do.”
Prosecution says crime was thought out in advance
Loy urged the court to consider the fact that the crime was premeditated. He noted that Aragon and Cordova had lots of time to think over their plan, yet they ultimately decided to go ahead with it.
They also admitted that they were involved in two previous attempts to rob the man. But both attempts failed, they said.
According to an official report on the Aug. 29 incident, both men confessed that they planned to steal one of Williamson’s vehicles and then drive it to Denver, where they would meet and disperse the items they’d stolen.
Williamson told police that his assailants offered to let him go if he told them where he’d hidden his money and drugs. But they threatened to kill him if he didn’t cooperate, he said.
According to his version of events, Aragon, Ankeney and Young assaulted him, while Cordova chased after his girlfriend, who managed to call 911 before he reached her.
While Cordova allegedly restrained the woman, the other assailants used a stun gun on Williamson; Young also struck him several times with a metal hammer.
At some point, though, the victim gained control of the hammer, and then used it on his assailant.
Aragon, Cordova and Ankeney immediately fled the scene, while a gravely injured Young lay bleeding on the kitchen floor of Williamson’s house.
Police apprehended the three men within a matter of minutes, while Young was eventually flown to a Denver-area hospital for treatment of severe injuries he sustained during the incident.
Defendants apologize for actions
Defense attorney Ernest Marquez, who represented Cordova, said his client never denied his involvement in the crime. But he told the court that Cordova did not take part in the assault on Williamson, and said the pre-sentence investigation report shows that his client protected the victim’s girlfriend.
“When they went to tie her up, it was Mr. Cordova who stopped them,” Marquez said, as he asked the court to impose a lesser sentence of seven years in state prison.
Cordova told the court that he initially came up with excuses for his behavior last August, blaming his situation on a drinking problem, poor finances and drug abuse.
But two character witnesses testified that Cordova wasn’t himself at the time, and he agreed.
“I am extremely ashamed of myself for what I did,” he said. “I am not that kind of person at all.”
He told the judge that he’s scared of what will happen to him if he continues along the path he’s taken.
“I don’t want this kind of life. My parents did this almost my entire childhood and I can see that I’m going down the same road,” he said.
If the court gives him the opportunity, he will make right his wrongs, he said.
Likewise, Aragon asked the court for a chance to redeem himself by helping others who find themselves in similar situations.
He also apologized to the victims in the case, as well as the community as a whole.
“I want to express how sorry I am for my actions and for my part in a senseless situation that had an impact on so many lives,” Aragon said.
In the past, he said he’s never had the resources he needed to help himself stand up and confront his demons, including drugs and gangs.
Aragon seemed to lay part of the blame for his situation on the criminal justice system. He argued that people who enter prisons emerge as even better criminals, and said that courts are only sending sheep to the slaughterhouse.
Young, however, might not be one of those people, as long as the court goes along with the terms of his plea agreement.
In exchange for his testimony against Aragon, the district attorney’s office is recommending a four-year term in the Colorado Youthful Offender System, along with a suspended prison sentence of seven years.
As for Ankeney, he’s currently serving a 12-year sentence in state prison.