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Man wants guilty plea withdrawn

September 26, 2006|by PEPPER BALLARD

HAGERSTOWN - A Salvadoran man who pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the December 2005 stabbing death of Eliezer Rodriguez is asking to withdraw his plea and have a trial on the original charges, according to court documents.

Through attorney Stephen H. Sacks, Angel Teodoro Villatoro, 36, said in a motion filed Sept. 13 that he wants to withdraw his June 9 guilty plea because he did not stab Rodriguez and did not participate "in the actions leading to the victim's death."

He also claims he did not get to raise the issue of self-defense before making the plea.

Villatoro originally was charged with first-degree and second-degree murder in the Dec. 10, 2005, stabbing death of Rodriguez and the stabbing of his stepfather, Cesar Rodriguez, who survived his injuries. Both were stabbed during a fight in the 100 block of West North Avenue at about 1 a.m., police said.

Villatoro, using a Spanish-speaking interpreter, pleaded guilty June 9 to involuntary manslaughter, an amended charge, according to court records. Washington County Circuit Judge John H. McDowell, who accepted Villatoro's plea, ordered a presentence investigation. Villatoro was to be sentenced Sept. 21.

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A 15-year-old boy admitted in Washington County juvenile court July 12 to involuntary manslaughter for his role in Rodriguez's death and was ordered placed in an out-of-state secure juvenile detention facility, where he could be held until he turns 21.

In Villatoro's motion, he alleged Eliezer Rodriguez's death "was the fresh and independent act of the co-defendant without prior knowledge on the part of the Defendant ..."

A hearing on Villatoro's motion has been set for Oct. 24.

Villatoro, who was originally represented by the Office of the Public Defender, said through the motion that he did not have the chance to raise the issue of self-defense in Cesar Rodriguez's stabbing.

Sacks entered his appearance for Villatoro on July 18, according to the motion. The appearances of Stephen Musselman, county assistant public defender, and Mary Riley, county deputy public defender, were stricken.

According to the motion, Villatoro said he was attacked by Cesar Rodriguez "and his companions and only responded in self-defense to said attack to protect himself."

At the June plea hearing, McDowell told Villatoro, a native of El Salvador who does not have his U.S. citizenship, that he faces possible deportation as a result of that conviction.

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