Drugs and guns: Young man goes to prison for shooting death of his friend

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Frank Schultz
Wednesday, October 4, 2017

BELOIT—Drugs, guns and violence combine too often in Rock County, the Rock County district attorney said in court Tuesday as another sad tale of gunfire and death went to sentencing.

Joldany Rodriguez, who just turned 20, didn’t pull the trigger, but he planned a robbery that went terribly wrong, resulting in the death of his friend and severe wounding of another young man he knew, District Attorney David O’Leary said.

For that and because he led younger teens into a situation that caused a death, and because he didn’t fully take responsibility, he should be sent to prison, O’Leary argued.

Judge James Daley agreed, sentencing Rodriguez to five years in prison and 10 more years of extended supervision.

Rodriguez’s mother, who had pleaded with Daley to give her son a chance to prove himself, sobbed outside the courtroom, comforted by his father.

The sentencing also included tears shed profusely by the family of Savion N. Latimer, who died at the scene of the robbery on Dec. 23 in Beloit.

Rodriguez’s family came to court with about 60 supporters—a show of support that longtime attorney Scott McCarthy said he had never seen.

Rodriguez, of 2221 Alongi Lane, Beloit, had pleaded guilty earlier to party to felony murder. The maximum sentence is 55 years, O’Leary said.

The case had repercussions in Janesville a week after the shooting. Two males had been arguing about the shooting on social media, and one of them came to a house on Rockport Road, where the other male was, and sprayed it with bullets as five teens huddled inside. No one was injured, police said.

Latimer would have turned 17 in January. He had been linked to more than one shooting in Beloit, O’Leary said.

Latimer's mother, Dominique Rogers, told the court she blamed Rodriguez for her son’s death.

“I just want justice for my son,” Rogers said. “...He was taken advantage of that day, and that’s something we’ve got to live with forever.”

The mother of Latimer’s child, Amanda Meiners, said she lost her best friend and first love, and her daughter lost her father.

A friend of the Rodriguez family, Jaimie Servant, said Rodriguez comes from a good family, and “none of them knew something like this was going to happen.”

“Joldany will be a good man. All he needs is one more chance," said Rodriguez’s mother, Rosa Cruz.

Also shot in the incident was Zachary E. Moen, 19, then of Clinton. Moen had his jaw wired shut after being shot in the face and thigh, but he survived.

Rodriguez knew Moen because they played football together, according to the criminal complaint.

Rodriguez told investigators he arranged to buy marijuana from Moen.

Latimer and two others rode to the meeting with Rodriguez, and Rodriguez knew Latimer brought a revolver, O’Leary said.

The plan was to force Moen to give up the marijuana, but Moen resisted, O’Leary said.

Rodriguez told police that Moen and Latimer both pulled handguns inside Moen’s car, and shots were fired, according to the criminal complaint.

It appears Rodriguez never handled a gun in the incident, but it’s a long-held legal principle that someone who plans an event that leads to a death is responsible, Daley said.

Moen has been convicted only of possession with intent to deliver marijuana.

Beloit has been the scene of numerous gunfire incidents, with more than 10 deaths since 2014. Janesville has seen six serious gunfire incidents in the past 10 months, with one gunshot death, police have said.

While O’Leary questioned Rodriguez’s character and sincerity in his apologies, defense attorney McCarthy argued the opposite.

“This is not evil. This is a good young man, with a good family, who made a horrific error that cost his friend his life,” McCarthy said.

As to the gun, “I don’t think he had any idea it would ever be used,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy asked Daley to impose a four-year prison sentence plus six years of extended supervision, but to hold the sentence in abeyance and impose probation with a year in jail.

Rodriguez would have a powerful motivation to change his life, with the prison sentence waiting for him if he didn’t, McCarthy said.

Rodriguez apologized to Latimer’s family and said he would make amends by becoming successful in life.

A prison sentence would expose Rodriguez to hardened criminals, McCarthy said.

Daley said Rodriguez’s lack of a criminal record figured into his sentence, but he said any sentence short of prison would minimize the seriousness of the crime.

“We’ve had too much gun violence in this community,” Daley said. “We’ve had too many young men I’ve had to send to prison because they’ve made choices involving guns and drugs.”

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