Moreland acquitted in Del Taco case
The state prosecutor involved in the 2011 Los Lunas Del Taco robbery case called the outcome "strange" after the parties left the courtroom on Tuesday.
Assistant District Attorney Bryan McKay said he didn't expect suspect Vakei Robinson to be handed a contempt charge by District Court Judge Violet Otero for refusing to testify against codefendant Tyshawn Moreland at this week's bench trial in Valencia County District Court.
Moreland, the alleged getaway driver in the crime, where police said the two were involved in the robbery of the fast food restaurant, was acquitted by Otero of any wrongdoing.
Robinson asserted his Fifth Amendment rights not to testify on Monday, and on Tuesday, McKay asked the judge to grant him immunity as an alternative method that required him to answer the state's questions.
Immunity protects individuals from having information used against them in any future hearing.
"Without his testimony, there was no case," McKay said. "A lot of people would say, 'Why couldn't you use the statement he gave police?' That's because the U.S. Supreme Court and the federal Constitution — that's not only hearsay, it's in violation of Mr. Moreland's Sixth Amendment rights."
McKay said he could have used the statement had Robinson gave a different story to the court or claimed he didn't remember what happened in the incident.
Robinson could face an additional year in prison on the contempt charge.
Before his acquittal, Moreland faced a total of four and a half years for his role in the crime.
McKay said the state "had to try" to get testimony from the only witness they could call to the stand.
"He's done," McKay said. "His buddy decided he gets to walk."
In a written statement, Moreland's defense attorney, Mark Keller, said his client plans to continue with his life after the acquittal.
"Mr. Moreland (is) thankful that this ordeal is behind him (so) he can continue his education and his job," Keller said.
In October, Robinson pleaded guilty to armed robbery charges and faces 15 to 25 1/2 years in prison for the crime. The sentence is part of three cases against Robinson, two of which are unrelated and originated in Bernalillo County.
Police said Robinson broke the drive-thru window and climbed into the building and demanded money from employees.
During the incident, Robinson is alleged to have held his then-girlfriend, who was a Del Taco employee, at gunpoint as he exited the building.
Police said Robinson left with Moreland in a red Cadillac a short time later.
As the car was leaving, officers fired three shots and disabled the vehicle's tires. The two men reportedly headed north onto Emilio Lopez Road before abandoning the car just north of Los Lunas High School.
Robinson was taken into custody after jumping out of a back window of his mother's Albuquerque home. Police said he jumped fences in an attempt to flee from officers.
He was uncooperative, police said, and had to be subdued with a Taser before he was taken into custody.
The woman, Ariel Gallegos, of Belen, has been indicted on one count of armed robbery, three counts of first-degree kidnapping, three counts of assault, breaking and entering, larceny of more than $500 and aggravated burglary with a deadly weapon.
The case against Gallegos is still pending, and a trial date has not yet been set.
Through a court staff member, the judge declined to answer questions about the hearing since the contempt charge against Robinson is still pending.
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