Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

Teen sentenced to 16 years in prison


October 23, 2019

Rejecting a defense attorney’s pleas for a conditional discharge so his client could join the military, a Tucumcari district court judge on Oct. 15 sentenced an Albuquerque teen to 16 years behind bars for his role in a home invasion last year where an elderly Tucumcari man was beaten and his residence ransacked.

District Judge Albert Mitchell Jr. sentenced Jamal Jones, 19, to 21 years to prison, with five years of that suspended. Shortly before his case was to go to trial in August, he agreed to plead guilty to aggravated burglary with a deadly weapon, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, unlawful taking of a motor vehicle, false imprisonment, interference with communications, armed robbery and larceny with a firearm. All but one of the counts were felonies.

Two counts — conspiracy to commit armed robbery and assault with intent to commit to commit a violent felony — were dropped as part of the plea deal.

Mitchell also ordered Jones to pay $1,000 restitution to his victim, Lawrence Szaloy, or to the Quay County 4-H program within the first three months of his release from prison. He must also pay court fees and costs.

Jones also was ordered to seek employment or perform community service, either one for 20 hours a week, during the first two years of his probation. As a special condition, Jones must undergo moral-recognition therapy and a residential drug-abuse program. A presentencing report stated Jones has an antisocial personality disorder exacerbated by drug abuse.

The plea deal specified Jones would serve 16 1/2 years behind bars, but Mitchell shortened that by six months so Jones could get more time for intensive counseling and supervision to improve his chances of reintegrating into society.

Mitchell acknowledged Jones faced long odds of becoming a law-abiding citizen.

“Do you have the ability to do well?” Mitchell addressed Jones after his sentence. “I hope you have the maturity do well. You have a number of challenges here right now.”

Jones, wearing an orange Quay County Detention Center jumpsuit, apologized and said he was taking responsibility for his actions.

“I mean that sincerely,” he said. “I’ve seen prison walls. I don’t wish that on anybody. I want to ask for leniency and forgiveness.”

Jones’ attorney, Jonathan Miller of Albuquerque, acknowledged during an earlier hearing it was “a long shot” but asked for a conditional discharge so his client could join the military. Barring that, Miller requested a shorter prison sentence.

“He has a sincere desire to serve his country,” Miller said. “I don’t know if that’s possible. He’s expressed a desire to change his life around.”

Joseph Szaloy, the son of the victim, urged as stiff as a sentence as possible.

“These people took a huge chunk of my father with them,” he said after a long pause.

Szaloy said he was offended Jones and another Albuquerque suspect tried to “take advantage of people in Tucumcari like they were a bunch of hillbillies.” Szaloy urged the judge to not allow Jones to enlist in the military.

Turning to Jones, Szaloy said: “I have a real offense of any kind of trying to weasel out of responsibility.”

Szaloy said he saw Jones’ jail mug shot from the Bernalillo County Jail after his initial arrest. Szaloy said several acquaintances labeled him as “Thugalicious,” or “trying to look tough.”

Szaloy said because his 85-year-old father took blood-thinning medication, he could have bled to death from a head laceration that required 23 stitches after one of the burglars pistol-whipped him.

“I hope and pray justice is served to the fullest,” Szaloy said. “You have to stand before God with your soul.”

Szaloy asked his father, seated in the gallery, whether he wanted to make a statement. He declined.

“I couldn’t be as good as you were,” Lawrence told his son and added: “I have a temper.”

According to a recitation of the facts of the case by District Attorney Timothy Rose, two Tucumcari men befriended Jones and a juvenile and invited them to come to Tucumcari to commit robberies and sell marijuana. On Oct. 3, 2018, Jones and three other males broke into Lawrence Szaloy’s trailer while he was asleep and lived alone. They cut his phone lines, tied him up with his belt, demanded money at gunpoint, then pistol-whipped him as his residence was ransacked.

Rose said the masked burglars took several personal items, a pickup truck and a safe. She said the theft of Szaloy’s cellphone and the cut cords for the landline left him unable to call for help for some time.

After the four divided the loot, Jones and the juvenile went back to Albuquerque. Szaloy’s truck was recovered, and Jones’ DNA was found on its steering wheel.

Rose said a presentencing evaluation of Jones was “troubling.” He said Jones’ antisocial personality disorder was rare for such a young person and didn’t leave many treatment options. Jones admitted to instances of theft, fighting and truancy during middle school, was expelled from school by ninth grade and committed armed robberies by age 15.

Rose argued Jones’ years of substance abuse, a lack of remorse, a lack of life skills and his “disregard and violations of the rights of others” made him a poor candidate to be a part of society.

Miller said Jones has expressed regret and remorse for the crimes and was sympathetic to the victim and his family. Noting Jones’ mother is incarcerated and the unknown whereabouts of his father, Miller said his client used drugs “to quell the emotional turmoil and escape everyday life.”

“There is no doubt if he goes to the Department of Corrections, he will be victimized,” Miller said, noting Jones’ small size. “He will be the prey.”

Despite Jones’ prison sentence being shortened slightly, Rose expressed satisfaction with it outside of the courtroom.

“I think the sentencing was fair,” Rose said. “Under the circumstances, it’s sad to see a young man of his age be sentenced to such a long term. But it’s well-deserved in this case.”

Miller said he would file for a reconsideration of Mitchell’s sentence -- a routine matter by defense attorneys but seldom granted.

“My client has had a horrific life and has many deeply ingrained issues,” Miller said after the sentencing. “Hopefully, he will have a chance to work out those issues and be productive member of society when he gets back.”

Two Tucumcari men implicated in the break-in were sentenced earlier this year. Riley Severeid, 18, was sentenced in May to five years in prison, with his time behind bars shortened because of his cooperation with police in the case. Setheria Kolyer, 19, in July was sentenced to at least 15 years behind bars.

A fourth suspect, the juvenile from Albuquerque, awaits trial and may be certified as an adult in the case as early as next month, Rose said.


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