Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Teens to face charges in gang-related attacks

By Jim Osborn, Columbus Telegram

Two Columbus teens facing assault and multiple weapons charges in connection with two gang-related attacks last fall, an Oct. 5 stabbing and a drive-by shooting early Halloween morning, have been bound over for trial in district court. Platte County Court Judge Frank Skorupa bound over Benjamin Gonzalez, 17, and Anthony Ramirez, 16, on seven and five felony charges, respectively, stemming from the attacks.
Skorupa scheduled Gonzalez and Ramirez for arraignment at 10 a.m. Jan. 14 in district court. The defendants have been in custody at Northeast Nebraska Juvenile Services in Madison since their arrests Oct. 31.
The judge dismissed a charge of possession of a short rifle against both defendants.
The judge continued the defendants’ bonds at 10 percent of $500,000 each. By state law, a defendant can be released pending trial or sentencing by posting 10 percent of the bond.
Gonzalez has been charged with first-degree assault and use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony in the knifing. He is also charged with aiding and abetting in  both attacks and possession of a stolen weapon and possession of a short rifle. He is accused of carrying the rifle prior to the shooting.
Ramirez is accused of firing the rifle, which was reported stolen in a residential burglary in rural Platte County, at a house along 17th Street on the north side of Columbus Middle School on Oct. 31. He also faces attempted assault, and the aiding and abetting and weapon possession charges.
The assault and use of a weapon charges each carry maximum sentences of up to 50 years imprisonment and mandatory minimum sentences of up to five years behind bars.
The weapon possession charges could result in 20 years in prison.
A third defendant, 20-year-old Ismael Ruiz of Columbus, has been charged in the Halloween shooting. Ruiz admitted driving the vehicle involved in the shooting and has agreed to cooperate with the prosecution.
Ruiz is still charged with aiding and abetting the possession of a rifle in the shooting, the least serious charge among the six he originally faced.
The remaining charge is a Class IV felony, punishable by a maximum of five years imprisonment. The dismissed charges could have resulted in the defendant spending decades behind bars.
Court documents in another recent case described all three defendants as among a group who frequented a 14th Street residence known by authorities as a gathering place for gang members.
A Columbus couple was arrested in November for possession of methamphetamine and prescription narcotics in an unauthorized container after law enforcement authorities served a search warrant at their home.
During the search, officers shot and killed a pit bull inside the residence that was perceived as a threat.

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