In August, a Fairfax County jury convicted Chantilly's Roberto Rivas of eluding police and assaulting a police officer. And last Friday, Circuit Court Judge Dennis Smith imposed the jury's recommended sentence — a total of 14 months behind bars.
"I think the jury's verdict was consistent with the evidence presented [at your trial]," said Smith to Rivas. "Your two acts were just foolish. You put a lot of people's lives in danger, including the police officer and the people in the neighborhood you were speeding through."
Rivas, of 14513 Iberia Circle in the Chantilly Meadows community, is only 25 years old, but he's already accumulated a massive criminal record. And this spring and summer, police charged him with nine more offenses.
ACCORDING TO jail records, his legal troubles date back to 1998, when he was 18. In October of that year, he was sentenced in Circuit Court for two counts of auto theft. Rivas received one year and six months in prison — with one year and three months suspended — for each count, running concurrently.
Just a year later, he committed the same offense and, in December 1999, he was sentenced to 12 months in jail for another auto theft, plus six months for reckless driving to elude. And in January 2000, the one year and three months previously suspended was reinstated.
However, instead of mending his ways after he was released, he continued his journey on the wrong side of the law. In September 2001, Rivas was sentenced to another year and three months for reckless driving to elude. Then in January 2002, he was indicted for being a habitual offender and sentenced, that same month, to yet another year and three months behind bars.
Rivas served his time, but then got into trouble again. On April 20, 2005, he was charged with being a habitual offender. The charge was later reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor and, on May 18 in Circuit Court, he was sentenced to 12 more months in jail.
However, he wasn't taken into custody immediately and, instead, was given until May 27 to report to jail. But he didn't and, when police caught up with him a few days later, he amassed a whole slew of new charges.
Police Det. D.L. Pierce explained one of these charges in a June 3 affidavit for a warrant to look for a handgun and ammunition in Rivas' trailer in Chantilly.
PIERCE NOTED that, on June 2, police charged Rivas with possession with intent to distribute cocaine. He wrote that, while interviewing Rivas the next day, Rivas told him there was a semi-automatic handgun and ammunition inside his trailer.
In checking the records of the National Crime Information Center, the detective discovered that Rivas is a "four-time, convicted felon." Therefore, he wrote, if Rivas did, indeed, have a gun and ammunition in his home, he had them in violation of the law.
Police executed the warrant, June 3, and items seized included a Phoenix Arms Raven .25-caliber gun and ammunition. Rivas tried avoiding arrest by attacking a police officer and fleeing in a vehicle at high speed, but he was apprehended.
Consequently, on that same date, he was charged with: Possession of a scheduled drug, possession of a weapon while in possession of narcotics, possession of a weapon by a convicted felon, assaulting a police officer, eluding police, resisting arrest and being a habitual offender.
On July 20 in General District Court, Rivas was sentenced to time served for the charges of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, resisting arrest and habitual offender. Judge Donald McDonough certified the charges of eluding police and assaulting a police officer to the grand jury.
On Aug. 15, the grand jury indicted Rivas on these two charges, and he stood trial on them, Aug. 29, in Circuit Court and was found guilty. He returned last Friday, Sept. 30, for sentencing.
Meanwhile, on Sept. 14 in General District court, the charges of possession of a scheduled drug, possession of a weapon while in possession of narcotics and possession of a weapon by a convicted felon were all dropped.
As Rivas was sentenced last week for the eluding and assaulting charges, a Spanish-language interpreter translated the proceedings for his mother, sitting in the first row of the courtroom.
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Casey Lingan asked Judge Smith to "impose the sentences recommended by the jury and run them consecutively." He said the 14-month punishment suggested was near the 16-month midpoint of the state sentencing guidelines anyway, and was warranted by Rivas "due to his lengthy criminal history."
HOWEVER, defense attorney Clark Brodersen asked Smith to run the sentences concurrently because the "assault on the officer and the eluding started out as simultaneous events." The jury that convicted Rivas recommended he receive six months for the assault and eight months for the eluding. But, said Brodersen, "My client has been employed, the past five years, and he got his GED. His crimes were drug involvements, larcenies and, primarily, probation violations."
Then Rivas stood and asked the judge to "let me work so I can pay off my fines and get back to society." But Smith instead went along with the recommendation of the jury and the prosecutor and ran the six- and eight-month sentences consecutively.
He also placed Rivas on six months' post-release supervision and said he wouldn't object to the Chantilly man being in the work-release program, if it's all right with the county sheriff. "Your history catches up with you," he told Rivas. "You're still a young man, but you're old enough to get your impulses under control."