WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- A 30-year-old Broward county man is standing trial for the second time this year on murder charges, accused in the death of a driver in a 2007 car chase after a robbery at the Three Amigos convenience store.
A jury earlier this year decided all but the murder charges against George Mato Dotel, one of several men arrested after the robbery of the suburban Boynton Beach convenience store sparked an armed car chase that eventually led to the shooting death of 70-year-old retired motorist Samuel Salomon.
Sian Kiat Koh, the owner of the grocery store, got in his car and chased the men after several of them stormed into his store with guns and raided the cash register. Prosecutors say those inside the car shot at Koh during the chase, and Salomon was killed in the crossfire.
Dotel's attorney Peter Grable stood in front of the new jury this morning and tried to tell them as succinctly as possible how Dotel, the alleged driver in the case, got himself involved in the robbery plot.
"He's not that bright," Grable said.
Then he paused, pursed his lips and tried again.
"He's stupid," he said with a shrug.
It was that lack of intelligence, Grable said, that made Dotel the unwitting participant in the robbery. Grable said he thought he was driving the group to the Boynton Beach convenience store to collect a debt.
Assistant State Attorney Sherri Collins told jurors the evidence showed Dotel knew exactly what was going on. And though prosecutors say Dotel didn't fire the shot that killed Salomon, his participation in the robbery and subsequent car chase made him responsible for the man's death regardless.
"He had a part in what was going on, he was getting paidand ultimately his choices led to the death of Samuel Salomon," Collins said.
Four men – Luis Alfonso Reyes Castillo, Victor Salastier Diaz, Roger Rodriguez and Geovany Ortiz Zuniga – are already serving life sentences in prison in the case.
Nelson Urbina, a man who rented the car used in the robbery and helped in the aftermath, accepted a plea deal with a 23-year prison sentence in exchange for his testimony against Dotel and the other men. His sentence could be reduced to as low as 15 years after he testifies, prosecutors said.
And authorities are still searching for Raul Andino,the man they believe orchestrated the robbery.
Dotel's first jury earlier this year acquitted him of attempted first-degree murder and attempted felony murder charges for the crimes related to Koh. They also acquitted him of three counts of robbery at the end of the week-long trial, but they convicted him on a robbery and burglary charge. Jurors also found Dotel guilty of two counts of false imprisonment as a lesser conviction on the kidnapping charges he originally faced.
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