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Man gets 25 years in stabbing death and assault

December 05, 2006|by PEPPER BALLARD

HAGERSTOWN - Nearly one year after a Hagerstown street fight left a man dead and his stepfather wounded, a Salvadoran man who has tried to deny his role in the attack was ordered Monday to serve 25 years in prison for the homicide.

Angel Teodoro Villatoro, 36, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for involuntary manslaughter and a consecutive 15 years for first-degree assault in the Dec. 10, 2005, stabbing death of Eliezer Rodriguez, 22, and the stabbing of Rodriguez's stepfather, Cesar Rodriguez. Cesar Rodriguez survived the injuries he sustained in the 1 a.m. fight on West North Avenue.

Villatoro, formerly of Frederick, Md., pleaded guilty in June to involuntary manslaughter and first-degree assault in the stabbings. He tried to withdraw his guilty pleas and have a jury trial on the original charges, but his request was denied in October by Washington County Circuit Judge John H. McDowell. Villatoro claimed he didn't get to raise self-defense as his defense.

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Villatoro appeared frustrated Monday. As the hearing began, he held a sheet of notebook paper and talked emphatically to his Spanish speaking interpreter, who shifted her eyes between McDowell and the attorneys. Through the interpreter, Villatoro said he had a letter he wanted to present to the court.

McDowell explained to Villatoro that he would have a chance to speak later in the hearing, before his sentence was announced. When that chance came, Villatoro asked McDowell a series of questions and presented the letter, which reiterated his request for a jury trial. McDowell told him that request already had been addressed.

"I would like to have a 12-person jury. Do you understand?" Villatoro asked through his interpreter.

Villatoro, who wore dark-framed glasses and a T-shirt, poked his fingertips at the tabletop as he asked more questions, all through his interpreter.

"I don't understand why I was charged with these and the person who stabbed me was not? ... Why should I have to lose my life for something I didn't do?" he asked.

Villatoro did not stab Eliezer Rodriguez, but he did stab Cesar Rodriguez, Washington County Assistant State's Attorney Robert Veil said.

"His involvement facilitated the occurrence itself," Veil said.

Veil said Villatoro drove a group of individuals involved in the fight from Frederick County to Hagerstown that night. A knife broke in Villatoro's hand during the fight and he drove the group home "bleeding from his hand," Veil said.

Eliezer Rodriguez's uncle, Edwardo Hernandez, told McDowell, "You've gotta remember something: He was trying to stop Cesar from helping Eliezer ... It was a lot of people against two people.

"They came over with a plan ... Our family is still going through a lot with the loss of our nephew," Hernandez said.

Villatoro's attorney, Stephen H. Sacks, called the stabbings "a very brutal and very sad crime," but said "offensive" comments that sparked the brutality came from Eliezer Rodriguez and not from his client.

Villatoro came from El Salvador to the United States in 1990 and has two children, Sacks said. He has no formal education and one prior American arrest on his record, he said.

His co-defendant, a 15-year-old boy who originally was charged as an adult in the attack, admitted in Washington County juvenile court to involuntary manslaughter and was ordered placed at an out-of-state secure juvenile institution, where he could be held until his 21st birthday.

Hernandez said after Villatoro's hearing Monday that he is "very pleased with the sentence. I think it is fair. He should pay for what he did."

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