Two men sentenced for robbing exotic dancers

Two men who followed two exotic dancers from a strip club in Willimantic in May 2013 and robbed them of cash and belongings have been sentenced to prison time.

New London Superior Court Judge Hillary B. Strackbein sentenced Edwin Mendez, 19, of Willimantic today to 27 months in prison. Strackbein last week sentenced his codefendant, Justin L. Roman, 20, to 30 months. Both had pleaded guilty to second-degree robbery and will be on probation for three years when they are released.

According to prosecutor David J. Smith, the two men followed the women as they left their workplace, the Ulra Violet Cafe, on May 30, 2013, and headed south. The two men blocked in the women’s car on Route 32 in Franklin and approached it, one of them armed with a handgun, according to Smith. They stole a purse, cell phone and cash from the women. They were arrested a short time later.

Both of the men accepted plea deals that involved 30-month prison sentences but gave their attorneys the right to argue for shorter terms of confinement. Roman, who had previous involvement with the courts, received the full sentence. Strackbein reduced Mendez’s recommended sentence by three months after hearing arguments from defense attorney Ted Koch and statements from Mendez’s mother, girlfriend and Mendez.

Shifting from foot to foot and sniffling as he stood before the judge, Mendez, speaking through a Spanish interpreter, asked for forgiveness and said he has learned from the time he has spent in jail. Koch said Mendez had tried hard drugs for the first time that night and was following Roman, “who was basically his only friend.”

“This case is a collision of nightmares, there’s no denying that,” Koch said.

Koch said Mendez received excellent ratings from his supervisor in the kitchen at the Manson Youth Institution, where he works as a prep cook, and that he has a stronger support network than most defendants. Seven women had come to court on his behalf.

Strackbein noted Mendez had no prior record but was “smart enough” to give police a false name after his arrest and refuse fingerprinting. She corrected Mendez’s repeated assertion that the incident was a “mistake.”

“You made choices,” the judge said.

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