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Man enters Alford plea to charge of solicitation to intimidate witness

Louis Geraldo Gonzalez given concurrent 20-year sentence

July 23, 2010|By DON AINES

A Hagerstown man entered an Alford plea Friday to a charge of solicitation to intimidate a witness, with the state agreeing to dismiss a more serious allegation that he tried to solicit someone to have the witness murdered.

Louis Geraldo Gonzalez, 28, who is serving a 20-year state prison sentence for armed robbery, was sentenced to a concurrent 20-year sentence by Judge M. Kenneth Long Jr. Long suspended all but four years of the sentence in the witness intimidation case.

The witness the state alleged Gonzalez wanted to silence was Bruce Allen Jones, the man shot in the January 2009 robbery for which Gonzalez is serving the armed robbery sentence, according to the grand jury indictment. Gonzalez entered an Alford plea in the robbery in September, according to court records.

An Alford plea means the defendant does not admit guilt, but acknowledges there is sufficient evidence for the state to gain a conviction.

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Last August, as Gonzalez's trial date in the robbery case was nearing, Jones told authorities he had been approached by someone who offered him $10,000 not to testify, Assistant State's Attorney Christopher McCormack said. Jones also believed he was being followed by someone from Gonzalez's family, McCormack said.

While Gonzalez was incarcerated awaiting trial, he offered a man "drugs and money to murder Bruce Jones," McCormack told Long. The inmate informed police, but efforts to get surveillance video of Gonzalez telling the man he wanted Jones killed were unsuccessful, McCormack said.

In September 2009, a grand jury indicted Gonzalez for soliciting the man to kill Jones, the indictment said. Gonzalez also was indicted for soliciting the man to stop Jones from testifying by force, the indictment said.

On Jan. 27, 2009, Washington County Sheriff's Department deputies went to Federal Lookout Road near Smithsburg for a drug-related shooting, according to the application for statement of charges. Jones, who was shot in the chest, told investigators he had gone with Gonzalez to purchase OxyContin pills for $1,750

When Gonzalez pulled into the driveway of a house and Jones got out of the car, a man ran up to him and ordered him to the ground, the application for statement of charges said. Jones threw the money to the ground and the man shot him, taking another $100 from his pockets and a cell phone, the statement said.

The shooter drove off with Gonzalez, leaving Jones behind, the application for statement of charges said. Jones identified Gonzalez and police arrested him and Anthony Caldwell, 26, of Hagerstown.

Caldwell had two trials that ended in mistrials and a third was about to begin in March when he pleaded guilty to first-degree assault and was sentenced to 20 years in prison with 10 years suspended, according to court records.

Gonzalez had testified against Caldwell in his first trial in exchange for a five-year sentence for the robbery, but refused to testify in the second trial and was given the 20-year sentence, McCormack said.

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