EASTON, Pa. | A Northampton County judge has withdrawn the guilty plea of one of the two men accused in a vicious beating and robbery last year in Easton’s College Hill neighborhood after the defendant reportedly failed to take responsibility for the attack.
Jorge Velasquez pleaded guilty in July to single felony counts of robbery and aggravated assault in connection with a baseball bat robbery of a College Hill resident in December 2019. His co-defendant, Junito Velez, pleaded guilty about two weeks earlier, and both men were scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 6. As part of the negotiated plea, prosecutors agreed to withdraw six other felony charges.
On Wednesday, Northampton County President Judge Michael Koury issued an order withdrawing Velasquez's guilty plea and entering a plea of not guilty, citing an interview the 18-year-old gave during a pre-sentencing investigation.
In pleading guilty to the robbery and assault, Velasquez admitted to stomping on the victim’s head, shooting her in the head with a BB gun and stealing her bag as she lay on the pavement.
But in interviews for the pre-sentencing investigation and psychological evaluation, Velazquez maintained his innocence, took no responsibility for the assault and insisted he didn’t know what Velez had been planning, according to court papers. He reportedly told the evaluator that he pleaded guilty because he believed Velez was going to testify against him.
He admitted only that he drove to Easton that night.
The prosecution alleges Velasquez and Velez had been driving around that morning looking for someone to rob.
Velasquez reportedly told the evaluator preparing the pre-sentencing investigation that he only pulled over that morning because he thought Velez wanted to drive. And he reportedly said that he only got out of the car to get Velez back in the car after he retrieved a baseball bat from the trunk.
When questioned about surveillance video of he and Velez following someone else several blocks away, Velasquez said he didn’t remember.
Defense attorney Ted Skaarup declined to comment on the judge’s decision until he had on opportunity to review the order issued Wednesday morning.
Velez and Velasquez each agreed to the same negotiated plea deal. The plea did not include a recommended sentence, and each man faced a maximum sentence of 10 to 20 years. The judge’s order set a Jan. 4 trial date for Velasquez.