The attorney for a Round Lake man found guilty in the murder of a Zion teen claims text messages sent from the victim's girlfriend could potentially result in a new trial.
Attorney Robert Ritacca said he will present new witnesses at a July 30 hearing for Jose Rebollar, 26, that could prove co-defendant Jose Garcia acted alone in the murder of Gabriel Gonzalez, 18, outside of a Round Lake Beach minimart.
Among the witnesses Ritacca intends to call is Gonzalez's girlfriend, who, he said, allegedly sent text messages to an unknown person claiming Rebollar was not involved in the murder.
"Her statements will prove this whole thing was not gang related, independent of what the state has indicated," Ritacca said after court. "It proves there was personal animosity between Garcia and Gonzalez that led to Gonzalez being shot."
Rebollar, 26, of the 500 block of Carol Lane, faces up to 75 years in prison at sentencing after a Lake County jury convicted him in May on three counts of first-degree murder for Gonzalez's death outside the One Stop Food and Liquor Store on the 1000 block of Fairfield Road.
Authorities said Gonzalez was making a purchase at the front counter of the minimart when Rebollar confronted him because of the way he was wearing a baseball hat. Rebollar and Garcia flashed gang signs at Gonzalez, who isn't a gang member and left the store, authorities said.
Garcia and Rebollar, who is also named in court documents as Rebollar-Vergara or Vergara-Rebollar, followed Gonzalez to the parking lot, where the argument continued. There, Garcia used a concealed handgun to fire 10 shots, including one that hit Gonzalez and killed him, authorities said.
Garcia was convicted of murder in February and sentenced to 62 years in prison. Rebollar was found guilty of murder about three months later after prosecutors proved Garcia was providing Rebollar with "security" as the higher-ranking gang member at the scene.
Ritacca has long argued Rebollar was unaware Garcia planned to shoot Gonzalez and should not be held accountable.
The animosity between Garcia and Gonzalez started when the two were enrolled in the same school, he added.
Initially, Ritacca planned to interview Garcia at a downstate prison. However, Ritacca said letters sent to Garcia and his family requesting the interview were not answered, forcing him to move in a new direction.
"If there was a past relationship independent of what the state has indicated, then there should be a new trial," he said.
Because of the recent information, Ritacca has filed a motion seeking a new trial for Rebollar. If Judge Daniel Shanes feels Rebollar deserves a new trial, he will set the date July 30. If the request is denied, Rebollar will be sentenced immediately after the new trial hearing.