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Luzerne County man given long state prison term for part in robbery

Published August 27. 2018 01:41PM

A Luzerne County man was sentenced on Friday in Carbon County court to a long state prison term for his part in a armed robbery that occurred in 2014 in Treskcow.

Elton Molina, 27, of Hazleton, was sentenced by Judge Joseph J. Matika to serve a total of 11 to 22 years in a state correctional institution.

On May 9, following a two-day trial, Molina was found guilty of felony one counts of criminal conspiracy, aggravated assault; criminal conspiracy, robbery; robbery, inflicting serious bodily injury; and a felony three count of theft. The panel found him not guilty of a misdemeanor two count of simple assault.

Molina was charged for his part in the robbery of the Tresckow Superfood Market, at 6 Walnut St., Tresckow, Banks Township, on Sept. 10, 2014, at 7:43 p.m. Over $2,100 was taken in the robbery.

Molina’s co-defendant, Amir Edwards, 25, also of Hazleton, pleaded guilty to a charge of robbery and was previously sentenced by Matika to serve 96 to 196 months in a state correctional institution. Before his sentencing, Edwards attempted to withdraw his plea, but Matika denied that motion. Edwards is appealing Matika’s decision.

On Friday, Molina and his court-appointed attorney Arley L. Kemmerer declined to speak at the sentencing proceeding. Molina is expected to appeal the jury’s verdict, which was reached following about an hour of deliberations.

State police at Hazleton charged that Molina and Edwards entered the store wearing ski masks and ski-type goggles and confronted the owner, Manoj Vitt Patel. Patel was “pistol whipped” by the two and suffered serious injuries. He was flown from the scene by medical helicopter to the Geisinger Medical Center, Wilkes-Barre. He testified at the trial.

A short time after the incident, Edwards was arrested by Hazleton city police and charged with the stabbing death of Zachary Richards, 27, of Hazleton. Edwards pleaded guilty to third-degree murder in Luzerne County court in September 2016 in that case and was sentenced to serve 20 to 40 years in a state correctional institution.

Although the defense had nothing to say, former state trooper James Surmick spoke.

He said what occurred in the robbery was “horrific.” He said the victim suffered injuries inflicted on him by Edwards. He said Molina did not have the weapon, but his investigation showed that while Patel laid on the floor seriously injured, Molina inflicted more injuries while stealing the victim’s wallet. He said Molina was only in Pennsylvania for a month when he participated in the robbery and has convictions for robbery in New York state.

Surmick said Patel still suffers from the injuries he sustained in the attack. Surmick added, “He showed no remorse even today. This was his third robbery.”

District Attorney Jean A. Engler, who prosecuted the case, asked Matika to impose the deadly weapon enhancement provision in the law despite the fact that Molina did not have the weapon used in the crime. She cited several state court opinions to support her contention that even though Molina was not brandishing the weapon, his participation in the robbery and his own acts of violence during the robbery supports the deadly weapon enhancement.

Engler also asked that Matika imposed consecutive sentences in the case.

Matika said a presentence investigation report prepared by the adult probation office shows a lot of “negativity” in Molina’s life. He said Molina’s bad conduct was not limited to the robbery but also continued in prison. Matika added Molina has “an extreme indifference to human life.”

On the robbery charge Matika imposed a 7- to 14-year term with the same term for the criminal conspiracy charge, running concurrently.

On the aggravated assault count, Matika imposed a 4- to 8-year term consecutive to the robbery charge. Molina was also ordered to make restitution of $1,050 to the victim, get a mental health evaluation, supply a DNA sample, pay court costs of about $1,000 and have no contact with the victim. Matika ruled the theft count merges with the other charges for sentencing purposes.

Molina, who has been in jail since his arrest, was given credit for 1,439 days.

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