Man, 19, accepts plea deal, avoids trial on attempted murder charges x xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Published: January 24, 2013
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ST. CROIX - A 19-year-old man avoided a jury trial on attempted murder and related charges this week by accepting a plea deal offered by prosecutors in the case on Tuesday.
Jury selection was expected to begin Tuesday before Presiding V.I. Superior Court Judge Darryl Donohue for Leozardis Casanova, who was charged with attempted murder; first-degree assault; third-degree assault; reckless endangerment; possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime of violence; unauthorized possession of a firearm; and discharging or aiming firearms stemming from a shooting Thanksgiving Day 2010.
Casanova is accused of getting into an argument with a man and shooting him in Estate Richmond.
He had pleaded not guilty to the charges against him until the last-minute acceptance of the plea offer Tuesday.
According to the plea deal, Casanova agreed to plead guilty to a single charge of third-degree assault in the case, and the prosecution agreed to dismiss the remaining charges against him. Assistant Attorney General Tom Sedar also agreed that the prosecution would recommend that the judge sentence him to no more than that time he has already been incarcerated at Golden Grove, which is just less than two years.
Third-degree assault carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. However, Donohue is not bound by law to accept the recommendation of the prosecution and still could sentence Casanova to any amount of jail time as long as it does not exceed five years.
Casanova, of JFK housing community, was 16 at the time of the shooting and on a day pass from the Youth Rehabilitation Center, according to police. He originally was arrested Dec. 1, 2010, as a minor in connection with the shooting near the ice plant in Estate Richmond, but he was bound over two months later to face charges as an adult.
The 50-year-old victim told police that a boy that he did not know, later identified as Casanova, started an argument with him and then pulled out a handgun and pointed it at the man's head.
The boy pulled the trigger, but the gun did not fire, the victim reported.
However, the gun worked almost immediately after the original misfire, and the teen fired a number of shots as the victim ran away, striking him in the hip and inner thigh, police said. The man was able to identify Casanova as the person who shot him, according to police.
The crime occurred while Casanova had been released from YRC on a 10-hour pass - from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. - along with a number of other YRC inmates to spend Thanksgiving Day with their families.
Casanova had been incarcerated at YRC since January 2010, when he was sentenced to stay there until his 18th birthday for breaking into a vehicle in Christiansted and taking a licensed handgun along with other items, according to police. In that incident, police arrested him shortly after the break-in, and Casanova had the stolen weapon tucked into the waist of his pants.
In the shooting case, Casanova returned to YRC and was arrested there days later, after the victim identified him.
He since has turned 18 and his age, coupled with the upgraded charges, have landed him at Golden Grove Adult Correctional facility, where he remained, unable to post $75,000 bail.
The judge scheduled sentencing in the case for 10 a.m. March 20.
- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.