TEENS GET PRISON FOR '96 STICKUP; BANK TELLER ASKS FOR MAXIMUM SENTENCE.
A teller at a Newbury Park bank that was robbed last year by two masked gang members with assault rifles urged a judge Wednesday to impose the maximum sentence because she believes the defendants have shown no remorse.
``As I stood against that Plexiglas door with a mini-machine gun to my body, there was no remorse, only a statement that they were going to blow my head off,'' said the woman, one of five victims of the June 20, 1996, takeover-style robbery of the First Interstate Bank on Wendy Drive.
Speaking of one defendant in particular, she said: ``He ruined my life. He took everything away from me.''
There were five victims in all, but only one appeared in court to speak at the sentencing hearing.
Both defendants, Joseph Jess Velasquez of Port Hueneme and David Meza Salas of Oxnard, were 16 years old when the robbery occurred.
After their arrest, Salas and Velasquez were found unfit for prosecution in either the federal courts or Ventura County's juvenile courts.
The pair then pleaded guilty to all charges - three counts of armed robbery and five counts of false imprisonment. Each had been facing more than 20 years in prison.
Judge Steven Hintz sentenced Velasquez, now 18, to 15 years and nine months in prison. Due to confusion over the sentence of 17-year-old Salas, Hintz said he will impose a revised term of 16 years at a hearing today.
The defendants and two adult accomplices were arrested shortly after the robbery.
Victims said the robbers, wearing ski masks, jackets and gloves, carried semiautomatic rifles with 30-round magazines when they burst into the bank.
Prosecutors say the victims were ordered around at gunpoint and doused with pepper spray. There were no other injuries or shots fired. The robbery was caught on a bank surveillance tape.
Based on a description of the getaway car, police quickly arrested the four suspects in Camarillo after a high-speed chase.
The two adults, who defense attorneys Wednesday called the ``shot callers,'' are serving lengthy federal prison terms.
In opting for less-than-maximum sentences, Hintz cited the defendants' ages and the fact that neither had a criminal record for violent offenses.
Velasquez's attorney, Jorge Alvarado, argued that his client grew up without proper family supervision and started down the criminal path at age 6, first with vandalism and later burglary, drug use and gang activity.
Attorney Charles Cassy said Salas has a history of family and mental problems.
``I think he is genuinely remorseful because he realizes he did some real damage to these people,'' Cassy said.
Deputy District Attorney Bill Haney said those arguments were weak, and he disputed defense claims that the defendants were mere puppets of adult gang leaders.
``Mr. Salas acted outside the presence of the adults like the vicious gang member he is,'' Haney told the judge.
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Dec 18, 1997|
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