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2 men plea in beating and robbery

BROOKSVILLE — Two men accused of robbing and beating a man after their cousin lured him to a house with an offer of sex are headed to prison for nearly seven years.

Jeremiah Rodriguez, 20, and Joshua Ray Rodriguez, 24, agreed Tuesday to plea deals that came with prison sentences of 83 months.

Both men were originally charged with robbery, grand theft, kidnapping and battery after being arrested in connection with a series of events that started on July 8.

Investigators say Rebecca Marie Rodriguez, 26, met a man at a Hess station in Brooksville. The two exchanged several text messages and arranged to meet for sex at a house on Powell Road, south of Brooksville, where Rebecca Rodriguez was staying.

The man, who was not identified, showed up, and they headed to a bedroom. By that point, investigators said, Rebecca Rodriguez had hatched a plan to rob the man. She told her cousins — Joshua, Jeremiah and Brigdare "BJ" Lopez — to hide in the house and then wait outside the bedroom door until they heard her say, "Oh, that feels so good."

Hearing their cue, the cousins barged in and began to punch and kick the man, Hernando sheriff's detectives said. Rebecca Rodriguez's grandfather, who lived in the house, heard the scuffle and asked what was going on.

To avoid a run-in with the grandfather, the group tied the man's hands behind his back, threw him out of a window and hid him in a shed, investigators said. They took money from his wallet and hit him in the back with a baseball bat.

The suspects then blindfolded the man, forced him into his 1996 Honda Accord and drove to Goldsmith Road, south of Brooksville, where they left him and drove off in his car, authorities said.

Rebecca Marie Rodriguez, 26, pleaded no contest in December to robbery, grand theft, kidnapping and aggravated battery and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Prosecutors dropped the battery charges against Jeremiah Rodriguez, Joshua Rodriguez and Lopez because of conflicting accounts, said Assistant State Attorney Larry Houston.

Now 17, Lopez was 16 at the time of his arrest but was charged as an adult. He has reached a deal that will cap his sentence at 83 months, but another hearing will be held for a judge to determine if he should be sentenced as a youthful offender, Houston said.

"He appears, based on the facts as I know them, to be the least culpable of these folks," Houston said.

None of the three men had prior convictions, but their sentences could have been much longer had they been convicted at trial.

Considering a deposition given by Rebecca Rodriguez, a no-contest plea was the right move for Jeremiah Rodriguez, said his attorney, Andy Cziotka.

"It probably would have turned out very bad for him," Cziotka said. "He thought this was in his best interest."

Reach Tony Marrero at tmarrero@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1431. Follow @tmarrerotimes and @hernandotimes on Twitter.

2 men plea in beating and robbery 03/06/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 6, 2013 7:35pm]
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