Nothing good can come when someone says, “Let’s go rob the cartel.”
That’s what Pierce County Superior Court Judge Frank Cuthbertson said in court Thursday before he sentenced one man to life without parole and another to 25 years in prison for a botched Lakewood drug hit.
A jury convicted 41-year-old Mazzar Robinson and 32-year-old Michael Rowland in July of first-degree murder. They’re two of seven charged in the Nov. 12, 2012, death of 32-year-old Jaime Diaz-Solis.
Prosecutors said the group schemed to kill a rival drug dealer, who was Diaz-Solis’ cousin and roommate, and to keep drugs and cash they expected to find at the apartment.
But instead they ended up fatally shooting Diaz-Solis.
Cuthbertson sentenced Rowland to spend more than two decades behind bars, the low-end of his standard range, “given what appears to be Mr. Rowland’s relatively limited role.”
In closing arguments of the trial, Deputy Prosecutor Maureen Goodman said Rowland didn’t leave when he thought he saw people in the group with guns, and that he drove two people to and from the crime scene.
Robinson, she argued, fired a gun in the attack. He was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, because the crime was his third conviction under the state’s “three strikes” law.
Robinson argued Thursday that his attorney in a 1997 case did not inform him that he would receive his second strike when he pleaded guilty to a second-degree robbery charge.
As such, his current attorney, Sunni Ko, asked that Robinson be able to withdraw his plea for the 1997 case before his sentencing for Diaz-Solis’ death.
Cuthbertson denied that motion, and said instead that Robinson could go to the Washington State Court of Appeals to try to withdraw the second-strike plea.
The judge told Robinson that, even if he wasn’t aware of the strike at the time of his plea for the 1997 case, at the time of the murder, “You knew what was at risk.
“And I don’t see anything here that was worth risking the rest of your life and contact with your family,” Cuthbertson said.
Family members in the courtroom, who later declined to speak with The News Tribune, sobbed during the proceedings.
The judge noted that Robinson had been in a good romantic relationship, and had been working at the time of murder.
“You had put this stuff (his previous crimes) behind you,” Cuthbertson said. “And candidly, you seem too smart to follow … these other folks.”
The alleged ring leader, 30-year-old William Manuel Alvarez Calo, awaits trial.
Fidel Gaytan Gutierrez Jr., 33, and Ray Steven Turner, 34, pleaded guilty and were each sentenced to about 12 years in prison. Robert Leon Smith, 36, and Jiffary Alexander Mendez, 31, pleaded guilty and await sentencing.