No prison for couple who threw gas, tried to torch neighbor
A former Spring Garden Township couple has avoided prison for throwing gasoline on a neighbor and trying to light him on fire during a fight.
Joshua Noel Rodriguez, 26, now of Palmyra, Lebanon County, pleaded guilty in York County Court on Tuesday, Sept. 26, to simple assault, according to court records.
In exchange, a charge of aggravated assault was dismissed, records state.
He was sentenced to two years' probation, ordered to perform 25 hours of community service and have no contact with the victim in the case, according to court records.
Carissa Lynn Rodriguez, 24, also of Palmyra, pleaded guilty Aug. 30 to simple assault and was sentenced to two years of probation, records state.
She was ordered to spend the first 60 days of her probation under house arrest, to have no contact with the victim in the case and to perform 10 hours of community service, according to court records.
The background: Spring Garden Township Police were called to the couple's former apartment in the 1500 block of South George Street about 4 p.m. June 30, 2016, for a neighbor problem.
Police said Joshua and Carissa Rodriguez were in an argument with their neighbors, 31-year-old Keith Tyrone Bull and his girlfriend.
During the altercation, Joshua Rodriguez poured gasoline on Bull, at which point Carissa Rodriguez tried to ignite the gas with her cigarette, police said.
Carissa Rodriguez told officers she was sitting on her porch smoking a cigarette when her next-door neighbor started yelling at her over unspecified issues between them.
She claimed that she told the neighbor to back up, but that the neighbor "got right in her face" and became aggressive, prompting Carissa Rodriguez to punch her, documents state.
The neighbor told police she was not being aggressive, only speaking her mind, when Carissa Rodriguez hit her, police said. The two women then began fighting.
Felt 'threatened': Joshua Rodriguez told officers he felt threatened by Bull, who he said was yelling threats at him, and claimed he threw gas on Bull to protect himself and his wife, according to court documents.
Bull told officers he had heard arguing and went to see what was happening. As he rounded a corner, he was doused in the face and head with a McDonald's cup full of gas, causing burning to his face, eyes and head, police said.
Bull also told officers that while he was fighting with Joshua Rodriguez, Carissa Rodriguez tried to put her cigarette on Bull's neck, but it broke in the process, according to court documents.
Bull's girlfriend said she pulled Carissa Rodriguez away before she could touch Bull with the lit cigarette, police have said.
Faced state prison: Defense attorney Tom Kelley, who represented Joshua Rodriguez, said he had hoped to take the case to trial because he felt confident of an acquittal.
"But this was a situation where the consequences were so grave, my client took a plea deal," said Kelley, who called that "the bird-in-hand option."
Had either of the Rodriguezes been convicted at trial, they would have faced state prison sentences.
Kelley described his client as a "mellow guy" with no prior criminal record, as opposed to Bull, who not only has a criminal record but who is facing felony charges. Read more about that by clicking the link below.
"Police had been called to that address before because (Bull) flipped out on the two of them," the attorney said.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at email@example.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.