By ROBERT PIERCE
• Daily Leader
A continuance was granted Wednesday in Seward County District Court for the four suspects arrested in the alleged carjacking of a Liberal man’s vehicle at gunpoint in January.
The continuance for July 7 was granted at the request of Razmi Tahirkheli, attorney for Juan D. Garza, 26, of Garden City, and Aaron Gipson, attorney for Jose Gil of Dodge City.
Tahirkheli and Gipson made the requests for their clients only, as the other individuals involved in the arrest, Bobby Stensland, 19, of Dodge City, and Matthew Perez, 27, of Garden City, each have other attorneys.
In a preliminary hearing Wednesday, Tahirkheli argued though he wanted continuances on his client’s case, the remaining cases should have been heard, saying it was unfair for them to sit and wait in jail.
Prosecuting attorney Russell Hasenbank said the state has always been under the impression that all of the cases would be tried together, and therefore, if continuances were granted for some of the cases, they should be granted for all.
Derek Miller, Stensland’s attorney, and Grover Bryan, Perez’s attorney, agreed with Tahirkheli that it was unfair to keep their clients waiting. The attorneys also claimed their clients were not involved in the alleged incident, and it has been well past the 10-day period after the suspects’ first appearances.
Garza made his first appearance in Seward County on Feb. 18. He has been charged with felony counts of aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated robbery, conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery and felony theft. He is also facing misdemeanor counts of criminal restraint and battery.
Stensland made his first appearance Feb. 21, and Perez had his March 3. Both men face the same charges as Garza. Gil, who until recently was in custody in Ford County, likewise faces multiple felony and misdemeanor charges including aggravated robbery and kidnapping.
Miller asked for a bond reduction for Stensland, emphasizing it was unfair for his client to sit in jail. Bryan agreed as he also asked for a bond reduction for Perez.
“Justice too long delayed is no justice at all,” Bryan said.
Hasenbank said the defendants are accused of serious crimes, arguing the bond should remain the same since the four men stand a chance of spending the rest of their lives in prison if convicted.
Judge Vernon Butt denied the motion for a reduction in bond for both Perez and Stensland.
Due to a conflict, Tahirkheli was relieved as attorney for Garza. Paul Kitzke has now been assigned to the case.
The cases for the four suspects will continue at 9 a.m. July 7 in Seward County District Court.
The men are allegedly involved in an incident that occurred about 8:20 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 10, when officers responded to the 200 block of South Virginia in Liberal for a reported carjacking.
The 34-year-old handicapped victim told investigating officers he was at a taco stand in the 400 block of South Kansas Avenue about an hour earlier when two Hispanic males, with bandannas covering their faces, got out of a large black SUV and got into his red 2001 Chevy Blazer.
The men ordered him to drive while they held him at gunpoint. The victim was directed to a field in the 500 block of East Oak where the men pushed him out of the vehicle and drove away. The victim had to crawl back through the field to the roadway to summon help.
The victim’s Blazer was recovered in Finney County on Jan. 11.
The four men were arrested between Jan. 29 and March 1 by authorities in Ford and Finney counties.
All four suspects are being held in the Seward County Jail. Each of the suspects arrested in this case are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
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