2 sentenced for shooting outside court; Drive-by case from Fitchburg.
WORCESTER - Two men were sentenced to prison yesterday on charges stemming from a drive-by shooting last year outside Fitchburg District Court that police and prosecutors believe was an attempt at intimidating a witness in a pending shooting case.
Cardea L. Wells, 24, of 227 Rollstone St., Fitchburg, who was identified as the gunman in the June 6, 2006, shooting, and Irvin M. Andrews, 25, of 21 Greenwood St., Leominster, the driver of the vehicle from which the shots were fired, each pleaded guilty in Worcester Superior Court to charges of assault with a dangerous weapon, carrying a firearm without a license, unlawful possession of ammunition and intimidation of a witness. The assault charges were amended from armed assault with intent to murder.
Judge Kathe M. Tuttman sentenced Mr. Wells to two to three years in state prison with three years of probation to follow. Mr. Andrews was sentenced to 1-1/2 to two years in prison with two years of probation to begin upon his release from custody. The sentences imposed by Judge Tuttman were recommended by Assistant District Attorney Joseph T. Moriarty Jr. and lawyers for the two men.
Mr. Moriarty told Judge Tuttman the shooting coincided with a probable cause hearing that was scheduled in the Fitchburg court in the case of 23-year-old Myron D. Vacca, who was charged in an Oct. 13, 2005, shooting in which Ricardo Diaz was the victim.
Mr. Diaz was leaving the courthouse with two other men shortly after 1 p.m. on June 6, 2006, when a car stopped in front of them and shots were fired in their direction, Mr. Moriarty said. Mr. Diaz was expected to testify at the probable cause hearing that day and one of his companions, Concepcion Rodriguez, was also a potential witness, according to the prosecutor. Mr. Moriarty identified the third man as Luis Vasquez, a relative of Mr. Diaz.
Mr. Moriarty said the occupants of the vehicle hollered "snitch" as the car sped off after the shooting. None of the three men was shot.
Prior to the shooting, Fitchburg police Officer Christopher Ledoux had seen two men in a dark blue Honda Accord in the area of the courthouse, Mr. Moriarty said. He said the officer's attention was drawn to the men because they were staring angrily across the street. The officer made a note of the Accord's license plate number and relayed that information to fellow officers after the shooting occurred, the prosecutor said.
The vehicle was later located at Mr. Andrew's home, and Mr. Andrews and Mr. Wells were questioned about the shooting, according to Mr. Moriarty. While Mr. Wells denied any involvement in the shooting, Mr. Andrews related to police that he and Mr. Wells were in the Honda in the area of the courthouse when three men approached the vehicle in a menacing manner.
Mr. Andrews told investigators that one of the men had an object in his hand that looked like a knife. When the men got close, Mr. Wells pulled out a gun and two or three shots rang out, Mr. Andrews reportedly told police.
When asked if he knew the three men, Mr. Andrews said he and his colleagues had been involved in a prior "beef" with them and they had shot at Mr. Vacca, according to Mr. Moriarty. Mr. Andrews, who was represented by lawyer Timothy W. Murphy, told police the feud began because the men "looked at us wrong," Mr. Moriarty told the court.
Mr. Andrews' account of the shooting outside the courthouse was disputed by an eyewitness, Fitchburg police Officer Steven Giannini, who said none of the three victims was armed with a knife, according to Mr. Moriarty.
Photo arrays that included pictures of the two suspects were shown to Mr. Diaz, but he was unable to identify either Mr. Andrews or Mr. Wells as having been involved in the shooting, Mr. Moriarty said. No gun or shell casings were found by police, according to the prosecutor, who said the plea agreements were prompted, in part, by the absence of physical evidence linking the suspects to the crime. He said Mr. Andrews may have testified against Mr. Wells if Mr. Wells' case had gone to trial.
Mr. Moriarty said Mr. Diaz, who is incarcerated and chose not to appear in court yesterday, was in agreement with the proposed dispositions.
Mr. Wells, who was represented by lawyer Kristen J. Patria, and Mr. Andrews were each given credit for 435 days they spent in custody awaiting trial. As conditions of probation, both men were ordered to have no contact with Mr. Diaz or members of his family.
Mr. Vacca's case stemming from the Oct. 13, 2005, shooting is
pending in Worcester Superior Court.