Second twin pleads guilty in gun store burglary but judge defers acceptance

Contributed Photo/Courtesy GCSO: Damian Maldonado took a plea agreement that will send him to prison for 2.5 years, but the judge deferred acceptance until after a review of a pre-sentence report.

Victim feels short prison sentence too lenient 

By Jon Johnson

SAFFORD – The second twin brother in the Taking Aim Guns & Ammo burglary case took a plea in Graham County Superior Court on Tuesday that will send him to prison for 2.5 years, however, the judge ordered a pre-sentence report prior to accepting the plea after the victim advised the court he felt the sentence was too lenient. 

Damian Maldonado, 18, appeared in front of Graham County Superior Court Judge Pro Tem Travis W. Ragland on Tuesday and pleaded guilty to burglary in the first degree – a Class-3 felony, trafficking in stolen property – a Class-2 felony, and misconduct involving weapons – a Class-4 felony. The plea dismissed charges of theft, criminal damage, and conspiracy and carries a stipulated sentence of 2.5 years in prison on the misconduct involving weapons count with a probation tail on the other two counts.

Damian Maldonado was represented by defense attorney Dennis McCarthy, and the prosecution was handled by Graham County Chief Deputy County Attorney C. Allan Perkins.   

The charges stem from a Feb. 20 early-morning burglary of the Taking Aim Guns & Ammo store in Safford at 1122 W. Thatcher Blvd. 

The burglary involved breaking the store’s front door and a display glass case while stealing three 9-MM handguns ($300 each), and an Angstadt Arms model AA-0940 9-MM pistol valued at $1,439. The twins were identified on surveillance cameras in the shop by officers who are well-acquainted with them despite wearing masks, and the four guns stolen from the shop were all eventually taken back by police. The total damages are reported to be $3,391.89. 

Contributed Photo/Courtesy GCSO: Dominic Maldonado pleaded guilty to theft and burglary in the first degree and was sentenced to three years on probation.

Damian’s twin brother, Dominic, took a plea agreement on March 7 in which he plead guilty to theft and burglary in the first degree. The plea dismissed an additional burglary charge and a charge of criminal damage and had a stipulated sentence of supervised probation for the theft count with all terms left to the court’s discretion. Dominic was sentenced on March 28 to three years on supervised probation and 180 days in jail with credit for 35 days served. 

Sentencing for the burglary count was deferred. That means Dominic will have the opportunity to have that charge dropped if he is successful on probation.  

However, should Dominic be unsuccessful, a judge could sentence him on the burglary count for between a mitigated minimum of 2 years to a maximum of 7 years in prison. Dominic’s next court appearance is set for May 9 for a work release hearing. He also has a review hearing on his deferred sentencing scheduled for Dec. 12.

On Tuesday Judge Ragland went over Damian’s plea agreement with him. 

The plea gives the 18-year-old Damian a chance to move forward while having severe consequences overhead. The plea sentences him to prison for 2.5 years on the least serious offense (misconduct involving weapons) while placing him on probation on the burglary and trafficking charges. If Damian’s probation is revoked upon his release from prison, he then faces a possible presumptive term of 8.5 years of incarceration (3.5 years on the burglary count and 5 years on the trafficking count). Additionally, since Damian is currently on probation in Gila County, a guilty conviction could affect his probation status there.

Prior to sentencing, Judge Ragland inquired if the victim in the case was in favor of the plea. Taking Aim Guns & Ammo owner Steve Mayes attended the hearing and told the court that he felt 2.5 years in prison was too lenient for the crime committed and that he was concerned for his welfare upon Damian’s release. 

“I think two-and-a-half years is definitely not enough and it almost puts me at fear,” Mayes said. “When he gets out, what’s he gonna do? What’s he gonna do after that? I just don’t think two-and-a-half years is enough.” (sic)

Jon Johnson File Photo/Gila Herald: Taking Aim Guns & Ammo owner Steve Mayes said he believes the suspects should go to prison for burglarizing his business.

Mayes said he felt the sentence should be harsher due to the nature of the crime of stealing a firearm. 

“Your honor, this wasn’t a burglary of a convenience store,” Mayes said. “This wasn’t beer that he stole. This was a firearm.”

Perkins reminded the court that in the eyes of the law, the burglary of the gun shop is the same as a burglary of a convenience store and both are simply property crimes. 

“Legally, convenience stores and gun shops are exactly the same whatever we think about what is in there,” Perkins said. 

Judge Ragland deferred accepting the plea and ordered a pre-sentence report be created. Probation compiles a pre-sentence report about the defendant and provides a sentencing suggestion to the court. 

Judge Ragland then set a sentencing hearing for May 16 at 8:30 a.m., where Damian will be sentenced if the judge accepts the plea. While the 2.5-year prison term is stipulated in the plea, the length of probation terms for the burglary and trafficking counts is up to the court.