Archive for Tuesday, July 30, 1996

JUDGE FINDS MAN GUILTY IN DRIVE-BY SHOOTING

July 30, 1996

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Securing witnesstestimony was cited by prosecutors as a problem in the case.

A man charged in two Lawrence drive-by shootings was found guilty Monday of shooting a firearm at an unoccupied residence, but three other charges against him were dropped in a plea agreement.

Richard Javier Soler Jr., 19, Jamestown, entered a plea of no contest to the shooting charge and was found guilty by Judge Jack Murphy.

An agreement between Soler and prosecutors eliminated two counts of aggravated assault and one count of a felon in possession of a firearm for drive-by shootings in the early morning hours of June 11, in the 1300 block of New Jersey, and May 19, in the 2400 block of Alabama.

Assistant Dist. Atty. Christine Tonkovich said the agreement was sought because of difficulties securing witness attendance and testimony. Serving witnesses in cases such as these often proves difficult, she said.

"Based on the evidence and the witnesses we had, both parties involved decided it was the best resolution to the case," Tonkovich said.

Tonkovich, a Republican candidate for the office of district attorney, is expected to take over the DA's office Aug. 15. Dist. Atty. Mark Knight announced July 15 that he would step down to go into the insurance business.

Originally, Soler was charged with shooting at an occupied residence for the New Jersey street incident. That charge was modified during the course of the investigation. Initial reports indicated four people were in the house at the time of the shooting.

No one was injured in either shooting, both of which were gang-related, according to police reports.

Soler faces up to 23 months in prison. A pre-sentencing investigation is scheduled for Aug. 30.

The presence of a gun was key to deciding what the plea would be, Tonkovich said.

"A plea that involved a firearm -- that was important," she said.

Soler, reportedly a member of a Topeka gang, was accused of targeting Lawrence gang members in both incidents.

He was charged June 17 for the New Jersey Street, but he was not charged for the Alabama street shooting until July 5 because the incident originally went unreported.

In a case involving a third, apparently unrelated drive-by shooting, two men await trial.

Marcus F. Knight, 20, Topeka, and Alonzo Jerome Boyd, 20, Topeka, each pleaded not guilty to charges associated with the May 26 shooting in the 300 block of Cattleman Drive.

After a car chase, Knight allegedly fired shots at a vehicle that had pulled into a driveway.

Knight 's trial was set for Aug. 26; Boyd's was set for Aug. 5.

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