First Rifle suspect sentenced in 2009 Rifle church burglaries
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – The first defendant to plead guilty in connection to a string of burglaries that occurred at several business and churches in Rifle last year received a gift from prosecutors and a judge Thursday.
Gemini G. Billington, 19, pleaded guilty to second-degree burglary and trespassing at a previous court appearance. But, as per a plea deal with prosecutors, Billington received three-years probation and a deferred judgment. The deferred judgment means that if Billington does not commit any criminal actions in the next three years, the felony charge will be expunged from his record.
When allowed to speak, Billington thanked prosecutors for the deal.
“What I did was horrible,” Billington said. “I can’t put into words how sorry I am for what I have done. I want to thank the DA for the plea bargain.”
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In a case that prosecutor Jon Pototsky said is “almost like the Old West,” Pototsky said that Billington’s willingness to cooperate with authorities, and his relatively young age, were reasons prosecutors agreed to probation and a deferred judgment.
“They were going around and doing their own thing and no one was going to stop them,” Pototsky said. “But [Billington] was the first one to cooperate. He was the first one to say what they did was wrong.”
Billington was one of three co-defendants arrested in November 2009 for stealing close to $10,000 in cash and various items, and causing thousands of dollars of damage to more than a dozen businesses in the months prior. Robert Ross Jr., 20, of Rifle, and Richard William Marques, 19, of Palisade were also arrested in connection with the case.
Billington was the first to be arrested after police received a tip that he and Marques had allegedly stolen a television from a the Church of the Open Door in Rifle.
Police confiscated a television matching the description of the one taken from the church from Billington’s residence. Police also recovered a stolen projector from another church at a local pawn shop that Billington had recently sold for $40.
According to Billington’s arrest affidavit, police say that he confessed to burglarizing three Rifle businesses, but that he denied any involvement in the church burglaries. Billington told authorities that he had only received stolen items from the churches from Ross and Marques, the affidavit stated.
Robert Ross Jr. pleaded guilty to second-degree burglary, a felony, and a misdemeanor count of trespassing Thursday, moments after Billington was sentenced.
Richard William Marques, 19, the third defendant in the case, also pleaded guilty to similar charges at a previous court hearing.
Billington was credited for 104 days in jail. All three co-defendants will be responsible for restitution payments totaling $31,983, to repay expenses – mostly for repairs – to buildings that were damaged during the burglaries.
“I want to get out so I can start working and start paying back the money that I owe,” Billington told 9th Judicial District Court Judge Denise Lynch.
Both Ross and Billington agreed to cooperate with Rifle investigators to solve any currently open cases in which they may have participated. Pototsky said that they would not be charged in other cases if they agreed to cooperate with police.
Ross faces between two and six years in prison for the burglary charge alone. However, his defense attorney requested a four-year deferred judgment and probation. Both Marques and Ross face sentencing next month.
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