Erie man sentenced in 2011 pizzeria robbery, shooting
Dec 12, 2012 (Erie Times-News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
An Erie man accused of shooting one person and attempting to shoot another during a January 2011 robbery of a city pizzeria was sentenced on Tuesday to serve 15 to 30 years in state prison after pleading guilty to charges in the case.
Carlos J. Diana-Cruz, 30, was sentenced by Erie County Judge John Garhart to 10 to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty in October to robbery, and 5 to 10 years in prison for illegally possessing a firearm. Diana-Cruz also pleaded guilty to the firearm charge.
The charges stemmed from a robbery at Alfee's Pizza & Sub Shop, 3001 Glenwood Park Ave., on Jan. 20, 2011. Erie police accused Diana-Cruz of shooting a pizzeria employee in the hip and attempting to shoot the owner during the robbery.
Diana-Cruz's accomplice in the robbery, 21-year-old Aaron T. Vaughn, was sentenced in July to serve 10 to 20 years in state prison after pleading guilty to robbery and firearm charges in the case.
Police initially charged two other people with participating in the robbery. Those charges were later withdrawn.
Garhart on Tuesday also revoked Diana-Cruz's probation on a criminal trespass charge from a 2008 case, and he sentenced Diana-Cruz to three and a half to seven years in prison, consecutive to the sentencing in the robbery case.
Diana-Cruz apologized Tuesday to his family and to Garhart for his involvement in the robbery.
"Sometimes people do things without thinking," he said.
But Diana-Cruz made no apology to the victims in the case as he stood before Garhart for sentencing.
The absence of an apology was noted by Michael Koehler, a lawyer whose family owns Alfee's Pizza & Sub Shop and whose brother, Eric Koehler, was nearly shot in the robbery.
Michael Koehler thanked the Erie Bureau of Police for "vigorously investigating" the robbery as he addressed the court Tuesday morning, and he said his family was thankful that they installed a video surveillance system in the pizzeria.
He said the video clearly shows Diana-Cruz taking part in the robbery, and shows him pointing the gun. The gun jammed, and did not fire, as it was pointed at the back of his brother's head, Koehler said.
Diana-Cruz had initially pleaded guilty in May to three charges filed in the case. He withdrew his plea in July, when he was also permitted to fire his court-appointed lawyer.
The case was scheduled for trial in November, but trial was avoided when Diana-Cruz entered his new plea in October. Diana-Cruz was represented in court Tuesday by lawyer Jeffrey Veitch.
Erie County Assistant District Attorney Matthew Cullen told Garhart that not only did the victims of the robbery have to go through the "initial trauma" of the crime, but they were regularly reminded of what had happened as the case continued for nearly two years.
TIM HAHN can be reached at 870-1731 or by e-mail. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ETNhahn.
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