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Paraplegic, 36, Faces Potential of Life in Prison

The wheelchair-using suspect, convicted of six felonies, is back in court on series of new charges.

February 16, 2005|Rachana Rathi | Times Staff Writer

A paraplegic scheduled to appear in court today faces charges that could send him to prison for life.

Juan Romero Robles, also known as Miguel Angel Corlione, is accused of stealing a woman's driver's license, threatening to kill her if she went to the police, and trying to steal a man's watch and shoes -- all using a toy gun in a 10-minute spree at a bus stop in La Puente in December.

The case has attracted attention because a paraplegic is accused of committing a violent crime.

"This is fairly unusual," said Margot Bach, a spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections. "We do have people who are disabled in prison," she said, "but the population of three-strikers is very small, and likely the number of disabled three-strikers is even smaller."

Robles, 36, has been charged with second-degree robbery, attempted robbery and dissuading a witness from reporting a crime. The former gang member was convicted of six felonies between 1986 and 1992, including robbery in 1988 and assault with intent to commit rape in 1990. He is a registered sex offender.

His attorney, David D. Diamond, said the "fact that they're treating this as a third-strike case is definitely without merit. It's not supported by the evidence or his physical condition."

Robles was shot in a gang-related incident in East Los Angeles about 10 years ago, which left him paralyzed, said county sheriff's Det. Steve Skahill.

"This guy has no life. His whole life is inside the penal system and his gang," Skahill said. "He's forsaken, and the only life he knows is what's back in prison."

But Diamond said Robles was putting his life back together.

Robles grew up without a mother, the attorney said, and spent time on the streets of Los Angeles while his family was homeless.

Diamond said Robles' sister had told him that her brother had been attending a local job placement center and was about to be placed in a job.

At a preliminary hearing last month, Guadalupe Jaquez testified that Robles pointed a gun -- Jaquez said she didn't know it was fake at the time -- at her head at a bus stop in La Puente about 1:50 p.m Dec. 10.

Robles told Jaquez to give him her driver's license and to write down her work address. He then threatened to kill her if she went to the police, according to a transcript of the hearing.

After seeing Robles wheel around the corner, she ran home and called the police, Jaquez said.

At 2 p.m., Robles approached Juan Zoquiapa at the same bus stop, lifted his shirt to show a gun tucked in his pants and demanded Zoquiapa's watch and shoes, Zoquiapa testified at the hearing.

Zoquiapa said he refused and got on a bus.

Robles was apprehended by sheriff's deputies while he and his wheelchair were being lifted onto the same bus.

Robles has pleaded not guilty. A pretrial hearing is scheduled for today in Los Angeles County Superior Court in Pomona.

The trial is set to begin March 17.

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