After serving nearly a year in Colusa County Jail while awaiting trial for his part in the Oct. 9, 2009 brutal attack on a former friend, a Colusa gang member made an offer to walk a straight and narrow path in exchange for a merciful sentence.
Nicholas Roberto Rojas, 26, whose trial in August came to an abrupt end after a juror suddenly came down with serious COVID-19 symptoms, was sentenced Sept. 9 to five years in state prison, after Superior Court Judge Jeffrey A. Thompon rejected Rojas’ offer to go to a rehabilitation program.
Rojas and co-defendant, Andrew Garcia, 23, the reported leader of the Sioc Street Norteños, were both facing lengthy prison sentences for the dark alley attack on Floyd “Donny” Harbele Jr. in what prosecutors said was a senseless exercise in gang politics.
Garcia was sentenced to four years in prison on March 12, after pleading guilty to assault with a deadly weapon.
The pair admitted to luring Harbele to an alley near Bridge Street, where Garcia beat him and cut his ear with a knife. Rojas was arrested the following day in possession of Harbele’s wallet and cell phone.
Rojas, through his Public Defender Albert Smith, offered to forfeit all the time Rojas has already spent in jail on this case, which would normally be credited as double time against his prison sentence, in exchange for a sentence of 12 months in a residential drug rehabilitation program and another chance at probation.
Although Thompson agreed that drug rehabilitation might be beneficial for Rojas in the future, he said that it was Rojas’ allegiance to a gang lifestyle that repeatedly got him into trouble with the law, not necessarily drugs or alcohol.
Rojas has a lengthy criminal history that includes a 2012 conviction for possessing metal knuckles, a deadly weapon, for which he was sentenced to 180 days in jail. He had a burglary and probation violation in 2013, for which he was sentenced to state prison, and has numerous other convictions for firearms and gang-related assault crimes, court records indicate.
At the time of his arrest, Rojas was facing a separate assault charge for leading Colusa police officers on a high-speed vehicle pursuit through a residential area. Rojas was reportedly traveling in excess of 80 mile per hour when he hit a patrol car head on near the Colusa VFW hall.
Rojas will remain in custody of the Colusa County Jail until the California Department of Corrections resume admissions to state prisons, which were suspended due to COVID-19. ■