A 50-year-old man faces up to 15 years in prison for accosting a woman, telling her she should go back to Mexico, before taking her cellphone as she stood near the Modesto Junior College West Campus last year.
After a three-day trial, a jury on April 25 found Lance Cory Vallejo guilty of felony robbery and misdemeanor battery, the Stanislaus County District Attorney's Office announced in a news release Tuesday afternoon. Deputy District Attorney John R. Mayne prosecuted the case.
The strong-arm robbery occurred June 19. The woman was using her cellphone when she was approached by Vallejo at the corner of Blue Gum Avenue and North Carpenter Road in Modesto.
She told investigators that Vallejo confronted her and told her she should go back to Mexico. Vallejo then said he wanted her phone, according to the woman.
When she refused to handover the phone, he forcibly grabbed it from her, prosecutors said. Modesto police officers apprehended Vallejo a shortly after the robbery and recovered the victim’s phone.
During the trial, Vallejo testified that he did not make any racially insensitive comments during the confrontation with the woman. He also said that the police were rude to him, according to prosecutors.
A recorded portion of the interaction between Vallejo and the police officers was shown to the jury. Prosecutors said the recording showed the officers treated Vallejo respectfully.
Vallejo, of Modesto, remained in custody this week at the Stanislaus County Jail. He was scheduled to return to court Friday, when Superior Court Judge Dawna Reeves will determine whether his previous conviction will make him eligible for a lengthier prison sentence.
The defendant was convicted in 2014 of attempted arson. The judge could decide to consider the 2014 conviction as a strike under the state's Three Strikes law, a serious felony prior conviction and a prior prison sentence. Those three factors would then make Vallejo eligible for a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison, prosecutors said.