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updated: 5/1/2014 7:05 PM

Lake County judge denies defense attorney's call for mistrial

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  • Jose Rebollar, 26, of Round Lake, faces three counts of murder for the death of Gabriel Gonzalez, 18, of Zion.

      Jose Rebollar, 26, of Round Lake, faces three counts of murder for the death of Gabriel Gonzalez, 18, of Zion.

 
 

A defense attorney's attempt to obtain a mistrial for a Round Lake man accused in the 2013 murder of a Zion teen was denied Thursday by a Lake County judge.

Attorney Robert Ritacca, who is representing Jose Rebollar, 26, of the 500 block of Carol Lane, said evidence surfaced that showed Rebollar's co-defendant had additional motive to gun down Gabriel Gonzalez, 18, in the parking lot of the One Stop Food and Liquor Store in Round Lake Beach.

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The information showed Jose Garcia, 19, of Mundelein routinely fought with Gonzalez when they attended an unidentified Lake County school, Ritacca said. Those records support the argument Garcia acted alone in the shooting, he explained.

"This changes everything for me," Ritacca told Judge Daniel Shanes. "The other defendant had a more independent motive for shooting Gonzalez."

Ritacca said it would have changed his defense strategy had he known about the connection earlier.

However, Shanes denied requests for a mistrial or a five-day delay because, he said, Ritacca has argued throughout the case that Rebollar was unaware Garcia was going to shoot Gonzalez.

"Why Jose Garcia shot Mr. Gonzalez had nothing to do with whether Mr. Rebollar was involved," Shanes explained. "It simply doesn't matter in this case."

Lake County prosecutors have alleged Rebollar, an accused gang member, argued with Gonzalez inside the minimart over the way the teen wore his hat about 12:40 a.m. on March 10, 2013.

Assistant State's Attorney Reginald Mathews said Gonzalez wore a hat tilted to the right, while Rebollar's gang wore hats tilted to the left.

Rebollar told Gonzalez to fix his hat to match his gang affiliation, but the teen was not a gang member and left the store, prosecutors said.

Rebollar and Garcia followed Gonzalez outside to continue the argument, and Garcia pulled out a 22-caliber handgun and shot and killed the Zion teen, authorities said.

Garcia and Rebollar were each charged with three counts of murder. Garcia was found guilty and sentenced to 62 years in prison this year.

Prosecutors say Garcia was acting as a gang enforcer for Rebollar, and Rebollar knew Garcia was armed and signaled to Garcia to shoot the teen.

Ritacca has attempted to show Rebollar -- who also has been called Rebollar-Vergara or Vergara-Rebollar in various court documents -- was not a gang member and he was unaware Garcia was carrying a handgun.

If found guilty, Rebollar could be sentenced up to 75 years in prison.

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