Home invader sentenced in Pa.

July 29, 1999|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - After several weeks of delays as he sought to withdraw his guilty plea to a home invasion robbery, a Chambersburg teenager was sentenced Wednesday in Franklin County Court to at least seven years in state prison.

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Judge Richard J. Walsh denied Albert E. Martinez's request to withdraw his guilty plea to the 1998 robbery at the home of Todd and Kimberly Kopp of 36 Maribeth Drive. Martinez entered the plea on May 10 in exchange for other charges being dismissed.

Walsh said Martinez had "terrorized" the Kopp family during the robbery and had fled to West Virginia after failing to appear for a hearing while out on bail last year. The judge also called Martinez's prison report "deplorable."

"We think you'll find things a little different in a state correctional institution," Walsh told Martinez during sentencing.

On June 30, Martinez, 18, of 4150 Funk Road, asked to withdraw his plea, citing a new witness in his case. He identified the witness as co-defendant Thomas Johnston, 17, of 94 Jameslee Drive, who was sentenced earlier this year to seven-to-20 years in prison after pleading guilty to the robbery.


At that time, Judge John R. Walker gave Martinez's attorney, Daniel Wolfson, a week to interview Johnston. Wolfson, however, was unable to find Johnston because he had been transferred to another prison, and Walker gave him another three weeks to conduct the interview.

"Mr. Johnston indicated to me that he did not intend to testify," Wolfson told Walsh Wednesday. Johnston said testifying for Martinez might have a negative impact on his chances for parole in the future, according to Wolfson.

"I'm in the process of finding new counsel," Martinez said to Walsh as he again asked to withdraw his plea.

"I was pretty much pushed into taking the plea," Martinez said. He said he was threatened with the possibility of a higher sentence if he did not plead guilty.

Assistant District Attorney T.R. Williams reminded Walsh before the sentencing that other felony charges - including burglary, kidnapping and criminal conspiracy - had been dismissed as part of the plea agreement.

According to court records, Johnston and Martinez forced their way into the Kopp's home at gunpoint on the night of June 4, 1998. The Kopp's two children and another child were in the house at the time.

One of the robbers put a gun to Todd Kopp's head and demanded money. When he said he had none, he was beaten and bound. While one robber remained behind with Todd Kopp and the children, the other forced Kimberly Kopp to drive to an ATM machine and withdraw $300.

Although the two were wearing masks, Todd Kopp said after a previous hearing that he knew Johnston and recognized his voice at the time of the robbery.

Todd Kopp said he was pleased that the court delays were over and both Martinez and Walsh have now been sentenced. "We haven't had a lot to smile about in the past year," Kopp said.

In addition to the seven-to-20-year prison sentence, Walsh gave Martinez an additional year on probation for an unrelated marijuana possession conviction. He was fined $600 and ordered to pay more than $900 in restitution to the Kopps and an insurance company.

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