A judge on Wednesday scheduled a hearing next month in which defense attorneys can challenge a criminal grand jury indictment against seven men accused of being in a Modesto Norteño gang regiment that conducted a series of armed robberies.
One of the defendants, John Joseph Rivera, 35, reluctantly agreed to waive his right to a speedy trial, telling Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Scott Steffen he was frustrated that the case already had dragged on too long. He said in court that having seven defense attorneys and defendants in one case was slowing the process.
"We've been going around in circles for a year and a half," Rivera told the judge. "It just seems a little redundant and not accomplishing anything."
Rivera was taken into custody in April 2010 on criminal charges in other cases; the criminal indictment in the alleged armed robbery conspiracy was filed in August. Since then, Rivera's other cases have remained stalled as the court has waited for the indictment case to move to trial.
Steffen has told the defendants he understands their frustrations, but certain unavoidable issues have stopped them from proceeding.
Wednesday morning, the judge told Rivera they will proceed with the indictment challenge Aug. 13 unless there is some unforeseen reason the attorneys can't move forward.
The six other defendants also agreed to waive their right to a speedy trial. They are Ray John Luna, 24; Johnny Anthony Montalvo, 21; Anthony Michael Gonzalez, 36; Joe Luis Ramirez Jr., 31; Rafael Jaquez, 28; and Miguel Avina, 29.
The defendants remain in custody as they await their trial.
The robberies occurred over a two-week period in December 2009 that culminated on Christmas Eve at Community Trust Credit Union on Tenaya Drive, just east of Modesto Airport. Two counts of armed robbery have been filed in the bank heist because the robbers took cash from two tellers.
The other robberies occurred Dec. 13, at the Quality Inn in the 500 block of Kansas Avenue in Modesto and the Econo gas station along Highway 99 in Lodi.
Stanislaus County prosecutors decided to seek charges for the San Joaquin County robbery because they said they believe the plot to rob the gas station was hatched locally.
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2394.