Pima County Superior Court Judge Richard Nichols sentenced three men to prison for a home invasion in December 2012.
Ricardo Beltran-Leon, 39, Juan Daniel Garcia, 28, and Elizar Lugo-Achoa, 37, all pleaded guilty to three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. All three received the same sentence of seven and a half years in prison on each count with the terms to be served concurrently.
“This was a very violent and dangerous offense,” Nichols told Garcia.
The men were accused of kicking down the door of a home on the 2800 block of East Paseo La Tierra Buena and attempting to enter and rob the four residents of cash and other valuables.
The original indictment included 16 counts, including burglary, fleeing from law enforcement and kidnapping.
Nichols agreed last week to postpone sentencing for a week when Lugo-Achoa’s defense attorney, Richard B. Jones, brought up the possibility that the victims were not randomly selected, but rather chosen because one may have owed a drug debt to the people who hired the men to carry out the home invasion.
Nichols said verification of such a fact would influence his sentencing decision, noting it would show whether the defendants were a general danger to the community or if the crime was specifically targeted.
“I understand that the court is concerned that this was a drug rip,” Deputy Pima County Attorney Lindsay St. John said Monday.
St. John said she had spoken to detectives who investigated the case, and they were uncertain whether the victims also were involved in criminal activity.
Police had suspicions that the son of the homeowners might be involved in drug sales, St. John said.
The father also may have some legal issues, St. John said, adding he was named on an Arizona Attorney General’s indictment in a pending case.
But such uncertainties about the victims shouldn’t diminish the nature of the crime, she argued.
“The fact is that three men kicked down a door and came in with guns in hand,” St. John said.
Nichols said at the sentencing he thought the crime likely was not a random act.
Attorneys for all three defendants asked for some leniency, saying their clients were hired hands and not the masterminds of the crime.
After they complete their prison sentences, Lugo-Achoa and Beltran-Leon also will be deported to their native Mexico.