Razo Trial Slated for May 31
Could Face 20-Year Prison Sentence
The California trial of Jose L. Razo '89, who faces charges of armed robbery and attempted escape from police has been set for May 31, Razo's attorney said in a telephone interview yesterday.
Razo's arrest last July on suspicion of 13 armed robberies drew national media attention and renewed concern about the experience of minority students at elite East-coast universities.
The former Kirkland House resident, who came to the Ivy League from the barrio of La Habra near Los Angeles, has entered a plea of not guilty, according to his attorney, Assistant Public Defender Jim Egar.
Egar said the defense would address the psychological effects of the gap between Razo's Chicano heritage and the affluent, predominantly white environment at Harvard.
"That is not to say Harvard was responsible," said Egar, but he said the sociological aspect of the case would be one issue that he would raise in trial.
"Cultural issues need to be responded to," said Egar. "You cannot ignore the fact that the allegations of wrongdoing occured when Jose was at school and away from home."
Egar noted that Razo was considered a community leader and a model citizen in La Habra, where he helped raise money for cancer treatment and was active in the local boys' club. He turned down offers from Yale and Princeton to come to Harvard.
"If we can't save Jose, we can't save anybody," Egar said of the upcoming trial. He declined to say what other arguments he would make in Razo's defense.
Orange County Deputy District Attorney Ravi Mehta, who will prosecute the case, expressed skepticism about any defense based solely on cultural factors. "That sounds great...but as a legal defense, it's not true," said Mehta. He said the prosecution would base its case on videotapes of "detailed confessions of all counts."
"I don't think he has a chance," said Mehta.
If convicted of all the charges, Razo could receive more than 20 years in prison, said Egar. He said the prosecution intends to ask for a 20-year sentence, which Egar called "outrageous."
Mehta said 20 years was "too stiff" for someone who has never been convicted before, but that if Razo were found guilty on all counts, he would seek a sentence of "10 years, at least."
Razo, a former Crimson linebacker, has been in custody since his arrest. Egar said the court has reduced the bail from $150,000 to $100,000, but that as far as Razo's family is concerned, "it might as well be a million."
Egar said Razo's family is willing to use all its resources, including partial equity on the house, to obtain Razo's release, but that the current demand is simply too high.
According to Mehta, the court would have reduced the bail to $80,000 or $90,000, but when Egar asked for a far larger reduction, the court ruled his request "inappropriate" and kept the fee at $100,000.
Both attorneys said they expected the trial to last several weeks.