A judge granted a defense motion Monday morning to reschedule the sentencing of Antonio Vega, the 16-year-old Elgin youth who was accused with two adults in the Dec. 31, 2014 armed robbery of Big G Grocery in Early.
But Brown County Court-at-Law Judge Sam Moss revoked Vega’s bond after hearing testimony about numerous violations of his bond conditions — including testing positive for marijuana in the adult probation department earlier Monday — and ordered him taken into custody. Vega also violated by making unauthorized trips away from his parents’ home in Elgin, where he wore an ankle monitor and was effectively under house arrest, Moss was told.
Moss ordered Vega taken to the Brown County juvenile lockup pending a detention hearing, which Moss scheduled for Wednesday afternoon. At that hearing, Moss will determine whether Vega will remain in custody — and if so, where — until he is sentenced on March 28 in the Big G armed robbery.
As the Vega situation was being resolved in Moss’ court, jury selection was under way in 35th District Court for Cody Williams, 19, also of Elgin, who is one of the adults charged in the Big G robbery.
Vega pleaded “true” on Feb. 1 in a juvenile court case that was heard before Moss to four counts of aggravated robbery and one count of engaging in organized criminal activity. Vega had chosen to have a jury determine his sentence, and Brown County Attorney Shane Britton and defense attorney Tommy Adams had been scheduled to pick a jury Monday.
But Adams requested a continuence, saying a court-appointed psychiatrist needed additional time to evaluate Vega. Britton told Moss he did not opposed the continuance. Moss said he was granting the continuance but wanted to hold a bond hearing to determine if Vega was violating the bond that had been set by County Judge Ray West on Oct. 30.
Vega, who was 15 at the time of the Big G robbery, had been certified to stand trial as an adult, but District Judge Steve Ellis remanded the case late last year back to the juvenile system. Ellis did so after determining that the information presented as Vega’s certification hearing was insufficient.
Vega will be sentenced as a juvenile under determinate sentencing, which means he would stay in the juvenile system until he is 19, Britton said earlier. At age 19, Vega would be transferred to adult prison “under their discretion regarding rules and parole,” Britton said.
Ankle monitor violations
After Moss granted the continuance in Vega’s sentencing Monday morning, Moss said he wanted to determine if Vega was violating his bond.
Court-appointed interpreter Louis Starzel translated the proceedings into Spanish for Vega’s parents, who sat a few feet away from their son.
Lisa Ritter, chief juvenile probation officer, told Moss that Vega was allowed to leave his home only for court-approved court-approved visits to locations including the Bastrop County Juvenile Probation Office, and visits with a therapist and doctors.
Ritter said she received text alerts if GPS showed the Vega had left his parents’ home — and that happened about 20 times, Ritter said. Most of his unauthorized trips from the home would last from 15 minutes to one or two hours until recently, when they lasted for “three hours, five hours — 23 hours Saturday.”
During that 23-hour absence, GPS showed that Vega had been at the house where he’d been arrested in January 2015 on charges of escape, possession of a controlled substance and engaging in organized criminal activity, Moss was told.
Ritter also said the results of one of Vega’s court-ordered drug tests had been “questionable” and that Vega had admitted he’d used cocaine, Ritter told Moss.
Moss then said he wanted to have Vega taken upstairs to adult probation and drug-tested.
“We were both shown the results,” Britton, referring to himself and Adams, told Moss a few minutes later. “Mr. Vega tested positive for marijuana.”
Moss talked directly to Vega. “Being out on bond on that serious of an offense is a privilege you’ve been given, not a right that you have,” Moss said. “I don’t see what you’ve done to allow you the privilege of being out on bond.
“Since Oct. 30, you’ve had at least 20 violations of your GPS monitor — as recently as this weekend, when you were gone 23 hours and 38 minutes. In November, you admitted to using cocaine and (Monday morning) you tested positive for using marijuana.
“I can’t, in good conscious, leave you out considering the nature of your offenses your were adjudicated for and the repeated violations. I’m ordering you detained.”
Vega stood up and placed his hands behind his back, and courthouse deputy Dennis Watson placed handcuffs on Vega’s wrists.