Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Linda Jennings said that although it is unclear who pulled the trigger that ended Rory Hunter's life, one thing was certain: Jacob Rodriguez was a teenager with a gun.
"A 16-year-old has no business selling a 22-caliber handgun or any other handgun on the streets of this city. A 16-year-old has no business carrying a 40-caliber or any other handgun on the streets of this city," Judge Jennings said. "You are a danger to this community, and it's time to take responsibility for your actions."
Rodriguez, 16, was sentenced to 13 years in prison Friday for his involvement in the January shooting death of Hunter, 23, whose body was found in an East Toledo field. He previously pleaded no contest and was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter with a gun specification.
Prior to the sentencing, Rodriguez said he was sorry about what happened to the victim but denied any responsibility in the shooting. Instead, he pointed the finger at his co-defendant, Devon Daly.
" … Nobody deserves to die over something so petty," he said. " … I had nothing to do with the actual shooting of Rory Hunter."
Daly, 19, of Northwood, was sentenced Thursday by Judge Dean Mandros to 14 years in prison. He had previously pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter with a gun specification, felonious assault, and aggravated robbery.
Assistant County Prosecutor Michael Bahner said that despite Rodriguez's denial of any culpability in the crime, "we know that is absolutely not true."
Mr. Bahner said that although it's true that "only Mr. Rodriguez, Mr. Daly, Mr. Hunter, and God," know what happened in the darkened field where Hunter was shot, independent and credible witnesses pointed to both defendants being involved.
"It's a little disingenuous for this defendant, even though he is only 16, to disassociate himself from this," Mr. Bahner said in court. "Mr. Rodriguez is just as guilty if not more. In fact, it is the state's theory that it was Mr. Rodriguez who pulled the trigger."
Authorities said that the incident began when Daly and Rodriguez sold a 22-caliber pistol to Hunter and a friend. Mr. Bahner said in court Friday that the defendants apparently felt they were not fairly compensated for the weapon and so concocted a plan to flush out Hunter, asking him to participate in a robbery.
Hunter went along with the plan, Mr. Bahner said, but it was created not to rob anyone but to ambush Hunter and retrieve the gun.
Mr. Bahner said Hunter met Daly in an East Toledo field off East Broadway during the early morning hours of Jan. 9 and that it was believed that Rodriguez confronted him with a 40-caliber gun.
Hunter was shot multiple times including once in the head.
Mr. Bahner said Friday that the gun used in the shooting was found in Rodriguez's home.
Several people crowded the courtroom in support of Rodriguez, including his family. Members of Hunter's family did not attend the sentencing.
Defense attorney Ronnie Wingate pointed out that when initially charged, Rodriguez faced complicity charges and stated that the facts are uncertain as to whether Rodriguez was even at the scene much less the shooter.
Rodriguez initially appeared in Juvenile Court faced with murder. After a March hearing, he was certified to stand trial as an adult.
Contact Erica Blake at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-213-2134.