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updated: 4/24/2014 5:25 AM

Lake County judge: No need to reoffer rejected plea deal in murder case

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  • Jose Vergara-Rebollar

      Jose Vergara-Rebollar

 
 

A Lake County judge ruled Wednesday that prosecutors don't have to reoffer the plea deal that was rejected months earlier by a Round Lake Park man charged in the murder of a teen over the way he wore his hat.

Judge Daniel Shanes said Jose Vergara-Rebollar, 26, knew the ramifications of turning down the offer of a 15-year prison sentence in exchange for pleading guilty to armed violence in the case.

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"He understood the offer and made the decision to not accept the offer," Shanes said. "In everything that has been put before him in court, Mr. (Vergara-Rebollar) has routinely said he is not guilty."

Jury selection is set to begin Monday in Vergara-Rebollar's trial in the March 10, 2013 shooting death of 18-year-old Gabriel Gonzalez of Zion. He faces up to 75 years in prison if convicted.

Defense attorney Robert Ritacca said prosecutors offered Vergara-Rebollar, of the 500 block of Carol Lane, a 15-year prison sentence in exchange for pleading guilty to armed violence. Rebollar-Vergara would receive probation after serving 50 percent of the sentence.

Prosecutors pulled that deal after Rebollar-Vergara's co-defendant -- Jose Garcia, 19, of Mundelein -- was found guilty at trial in February. Part of the plea deal required Vergara-Rebollar to testify against Garcia at trial.

Prosecutors made a second offer to Vergara-Rebollar after Garcia's trial -- plead guilty to first-degree murder for a prison sentence capped at 25 years. Vergara-Rebollar turned down that deal in front of Shanes on Monday.

After rejecting the second deal, Ritacca filed a motion asking Shanes to force Mathews to reoffer the original deal. Shanes refused.

Vergara-Rebollar has been held in Lake County jail on $3 million bond after being charged with three counts of murder in Gonzalez's death.

Authorities said Vergara-Rebollar and Garcia confronted Gonzalez inside the minimart in the 100 block of Fairfield Road in Round Lake Beach at 12:40 a.m. and wrongly assumed he was in a rival gang. Gonzalez pushed his way to the parking lot, where the argument continued.

There, Garcia pulled out a .22-caliber handgun and fired 10 shots at Gonzalez, authorities said. He died after a bullet struck his aorta.

Garcia was found guilty of three counts of murder, and was sentenced to 62 years in prison.

Authorities have argued Garcia was acting as a gang enforcer for Vergara-Rebollar, but Ritacca has said Vergara-Rebollar was not associated with a gang and Garcia acted alone.

Outside the courtroom Wednesday, Ritacca said Vergara-Rebollar would plead guilty to the armed violence deal if it was offered.

"If they would make the offer for 15 years with 50 percent before probation, he would plead guilty. But, they aren't offering it," he said.

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