Burglar sentenced to 10 years in prison Former activist also ordered to pay $17,000 in restitution

December 11, 1997|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,SUN STAFF

A man who said he is a former artist and activist for Native Americans and Latin Americans was sentenced yesterday to 10 years in prison for his role in a series of commercial burglaries in Anne Arundel County last year.

Manuel Javier Zertuche, 51, of the 200 block of Victor Parkway in Annapolis already is serving a four-year sentence on burglary convictions in Queen Anne's County. His latest sentence will run on top of that first one.

The burglaries Zertuche committed with at least one other person from July through October 1996 were so sophisticated, "the CIA could have taken lessons from what these people did," said Assistant State's Attorney Frederick M. Paone.

The burglars cut telephone and power lines, disabling computers and disrupting business, in addition to breaking open or taking safes, according to Paone and police reports.

Zertuche was sentenced to 15 years in prison with five years suspended for his part in break-ins last year at the Pirate's Cove restaurant in Galesville on July 8, at Rumors Salon of Annapolis on July 24, and at Wheeler's True Value Hardware in Deale on Oct. 31. The three businesses sustained more than $18,000 worth of loss and damage, according to Paone.

Circuit Judge Ronald A. Silkworth ordered Zertuche, who pleaded guilty in October to three counts of second-degree burglary, to pay nearly $17,000 in restitution. Paone

dropped charges yesterday in five other burglary cases.

Zertuche's accomplice, James T. Miller, 33, of the 900 block of Old Annapolis Road, was sentenced in May to 12 years in prison with seven years suspended on three counts of second-degree burglary. Miller had also pleaded guilty.

Yesterday, Zertuche told Silkworth that after decades of community service he fell into a "pit of darkness" in the early 1990s. He said that while painting a mural in a drug-infested neighborhood in New York, he fell off the scaffolding and fractured his skull.

He lost his memory and "bummed around" the country for two years, ending up in California. A heavy drinker since returning from military service in Vietnam, Zertuche said, he also started using drugs after the fall.

His descent into drug use made him feel like a hypocrite, Zertuche said, because he had worked in drug and alcohol counseling programs and was executive director of a youth center for Latin Americans. Zertuche said he brought Native American programs to Anne Arundel elementary students with federal and state grants in the 1970s and 1980s.

"If definitely given a chance, I would definitely mend my ways," said Zertuche, whose wife and 6-year-old son live in New York. "I am an example of coming from a reservation where electricity and running water is not in existence to this day."

Zertuche is Mescalero Apache and graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with a bachelor's degree in art, according to Paone. Zertuche told Silkworth he could complete his master's degree in psychology with 17 more credit hours.

His lawyer, Jonathan A. Gladstone, asked for a sentence of no more than six years.

But Paone urged a sentence of no more than 10 years plus restitution.

"I have a great deal of respect for the things he has done in his lifetime," Paone said, referring to Zertuche's service as an airborne Ranger during the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: 12/11/97

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