EASTON, Pa. | One of the two men accused in a brutal robbery and beating in Easton’s College Hill neighborhood more than a year ago has pleaded guilty for his role in the attack … again.
Jorge Velasquez appeared before Northampton County President Judge Michael Koury on Wednesday to plead guilty to single felony counts of robbery and aggravated assault in connection with the baseball bat robbery of a College Hill resident in December 2019.
The now 18-year-old initially pleaded guilty last July to the same charges. His co-defendant, Junito Velez, had pleaded guilty about two weeks earlier. But before Velasquez could be sentenced, the judge issued an order in October withdrawing the plea, citing comments the defendant had made during a pre-sentencing investigation.
During interviews before his sentencing, Velasquez reportedly maintained his innocence and insisted he had no idea Velez had planned to rob someone that morning. His comments prompted Koury to withdraw the plea and set a trial date for Velasquez.
On Wednesday, the judge declined to simply re-instate the guilty plea, instead requiring that Velasquez plead guilty again and allocute in court to the crime. The prosecution offered the same plea deal as it did last summer: plead guilty to the top two offenses which Velasquez would be allowed to serve concurrently.
Assistant District Attorney Alec Colquhoun said there is still no agreement on a recommended sentence. That will be up to the judge, and Velez and Velasquez each face a maximum sentence of 10-20 years in state prison.
Colquhoun again outlined the attack and robbery that left the victim bleeding profusely as she lay on the sidewalk. He reiterated a lengthy list of injuries that included a concussion, a broken nose, a broken rib and nerve damage to her left arm. The victim was in the courtroom yet again for the guilty plea.
Given the circumstances surrounding Velasquez’s previous guilty plea, the judge asked him to explain to the court what happened that day from the moment he woke up.
Velasquez told the judge that he had woken up relatively early that day to a phone call from Velez, asking to “hang out.” He drove from Easton to Allentown to pick up Velez and another friend after which the trio spent about 90 minutes drinking a bottle of Hennessy together, according to his testimony. Velasquez said he also took a Percocet.
He told the judge that Velez suggested while they were drinking that they rob someone that day. As they were driving around Easton looking for a victim, Velez told Velasquez to pull over. That’s when Velez stepped out of the car with an aluminum baseball bat and attacked the victim.
Authorities said Velez hit the woman in the back of the head with the bat and continued hitting her as she lay on the ground. When asked by the judge where Velez had hit the woman, Velasquez said he wasn’t sure because “things were hazy” from the combination of liquor and Percocet.
When he grabbed the woman’s bag, Velasquez told the judge that he made eye contact and then stomped on her head. He couldn’t say how many times he did it. He also couldn’t recall anything about a BB gun. Police said the victim was shot three times in the head with a BB gun.
Velasquez told the judge he had a hard time explaining how he felt as he emerged from the car and approached the victim.
“All sound kind of faded away, and I just moved in slow motion,” he said, adding that he couldn’t recall if he later admitted to the robbery and assault to others.
Velasquez said he told Velez later that what they had done was “dumb” and “truly, truly wrong.” He also apologized to the victim, telling her that he now thinks about the attack all the time. He thinks about the physical pain and emotional pain they caused along with taking from her a sense of security that everyone deserves.
“Words can’t express how much regret I feel,” Velasquez said, calling his crime “heinous.”
Both men are scheduled to be sentenced on March 17.