BELLEFONTE — A 19-year-old man will spend at least eight years in state prison for robbing four young teens and assaulting and injuring one on Centre Hall Mountain.
Richard Martinez was sentenced Tuesday by Centre County Judge Pamela A. Ruest to serve eight to 16 years behind bars.
Spring Township police accused Martinez of accosting the four 14-year-old boys in May while the teens were hiking in the Big Rock area of the mountain.
Martinez forced them to the ground, kicked one in the face, held a box cutter to another and threatened to kill the boys. He went through their backpacks and pockets and stole their iPods, according to police.
Martinez allegedly told the boys to lie about what happened to them and to say they fell. One of the boys instead remembered his attacker’s tattoo and told police, eventually leading to Martinez’s arrest.
“This encounter was a very violent act that has lifelong consequences,” District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller said Tuesday. “The brave teens who were victimized were able to help identify their attacker and today hopefully received some closure to this ordeal by seeing him sentenced for the injuries they suffered, both physically and mentally.”
Prosecutors asked Ruest to impose a stiff sentence because of the nature of the crimes and Martinez’s prior offenses.
Martinez apologized to the teens and their families and his own mother and sisters before the sentence was handed down Tuesday.
“What I can do is take accountability for my actions, learn and change and go better,” he said. “I strive every day when I wake up to make myself better.”
In September, he entered a no contest plea to the charges, which included 14 felonies, avoiding a trial scheduled for the next week.
Martinez’s mother and sisters asked for leniency Tuesday at the sentencing hearing. Defense attorney Tami Fees said her client graduated high school despite his arrest, and had academic and athletic scholarships to study and wrestle at a college in Missouri.
“I had very big ambitions,” Martinez said. “But my priorities and choices didn’t always match up with those ambitions. This has taught me a valuable life lesson.”
But Assistant District Attorney Nathan Boob said Martinez was charged as a juvenile in six separate prior incidents, and has had opportunities to change his behavior.
While they haven’t exactly said why Martinez was on the mountain, police wrote in charging documents that the area is known as a site where marijuana is grown.
“We can’t prove he was protecting a marijuana plot,” Boob said Tuesday. “But for some reason he was motivated enough to chase these kids down and break (one boy’s) face.”
Two of the boys and members of their families also spoke at the sentencing.
“It’s always on the back of our minds that this could happen again,” one boy said. “This whole ordeal is going to affect us for the rest of our lives.”
Matt Carroll can be reached at 231-4631. Follow him on Twitter @Carrollreporter.