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Illegal's conviction in Murrysville case not biased, says judge

Rich Cholodofsky
| Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2010

A Westmoreland County judge on Tuesday denied an illegal Mexican immigrant's request for a new trial, saying there is no basis to overturn a jury's verdict.

Noe Tovar Baltazar, 24, was convicted in September of attempted carjacking. He jumped into a car of a Monroeville woman and her 10-year-old daughter on March 18 at Village of Murrysville shopping plaza.

Baltazar, through public defender Donna McClelland, contends he deserves a new trial because the victims testified about lasting emotional distress suffered as a result of the incident.

Rachel Riedel told jurors that she is afraid to be in parking lots at night. Her daughter testified that she fears Hispanic-looking men and doesn't like to be left alone as a result of the encounter with Baltazar.

"It was irrelevant evidence," McClelland said.

Westmoreland County Judge Al Bell disagreed, saying the testimony was permissible under state law.

Baltazar disputed the allegations at the trial that he tried to steal Riedel's car while she and her daughter sat in the car in the parking lot. Testifying through an interpreter, he claimed that he was drunk and had no memory of getting into the vehicle.

Riedel said Baltazar jumped into the passenger seat with her daughter and reached for the keys or the steering wheel. The girl punched and kicked, forcing Baltazar out of the car. Police found him crouching behind a trash bin.

Baltazar is scheduled to return to court Nov. 23, when he will be sentenced on one felony count of attempted robbery of a motor vehicle.

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