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An American Dream Sours; Razo Convicted of Robberies


The odyssey of one Harvard student from a Los Angeles barrio to Cambridge and back again possibly took its final twist this summer after his conviction for a string of armed robberies.

The next trip of Jose L. Razo '89 will be to jail.

Razo, who insisted that he "didn't fit" at Harvard, was found guilty on six counts of armed robbery this summer by an Orange County, California jury. A county judge later sentenced him to 10 years and four months in jail for the crimes, which occurred during breaks from his freshperson and sophomore years.

Superior Court Judge Jean H. Rheinheimer told Razo, "The court has searched its conscience and has done its best to impose a sentence that is just and is fair. This is not a happy sentencing for this court."

The rise and fall of Razo has received national attention over the past two years for its portrayal of an American dream gone sour.

Despite the pressures of inner-city life, Razo excelled academically at several parochial schools and in local boys' clubs. His strong record attracted the interest of several top colleges, and Razo enrolled at Harvard in 1985.

Yet Razo's friends said he felt alienated from his middle-class classmates and longed to return to his native Los Angeles. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times immediately following his arrest in 1987, Razo said, "I'm a homeboy now...At Harvard I didn't fit...I was confused."

Razo, a Harvard varsity football player, turned to PCP to combat this confusion. His defense had centered around the claim that his confession to the burglaries was spurred by a PCP-induced psychosis.

But prosecutor Ravi Mehta called the argument a "crock," saying Razo was not poisoned by PCP when he turned himself in to police in 1987 and confessed to 12 burglaries. Mehta told the court that Razo "had earned his way to Harvard, but he also earned his way to prison."

Razo's defense lawyer John Barnett also called the sentence fair, "given the guilty verdict. But since I believe he isn't guilty, no sentence would be appropriate."

Barnett said he filed an official notice of appeal on September 6. If the California Court of Appeals reverses the decision, Razo will be-re-tried. He still faces trial in connection with three additional robberies in Los Angeles County.

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