By Kelly Wheeler
City News ServiceFour San Bernardino men who took part in an armed robbery last year at the La Jolla home of food writer Jeanne Jones were sentenced today to prison terms ranging from 14 to 45 years.
Thomas Walter Clark, 42, Aaron Jacob Espinoza, 24, Hector Guerra, 31, and Miguel Ocegueda, 24, pleaded guilty in July to robbery, assault and false imprisonment charges.
Clark, who has a prior 1996 robbery conviction, received the stiffest term — 45 years. Espinoza and Guerra each were sentenced to 26 years and four months behind bars, and Ocegueda was sentenced to 14 years and four months.
During the sentencing hearing, a sheriff’s deputy snatched a candy wrapper from one of the four, prompting Judge Michael Smyth to apologize to the victims for the
smirking and idiocy’’ of the defendants.
Deputy District Attorney C.J. Mody said Clark, Espinoza and Guerra entered Jones’ La Jolla Scenic Drive home about 6:30 p.m. last Nov. 5 armed with two semiautomatic handguns. Ocegueda did not enter the home but drove the getaway car, the prosecutor said.
A housekeeper opened the door to Guerra, who was holding a single rose and announced he had a flower delivery for Jones, the prosecutor said. Mody said the defendant repeatedly punched the woman in the face, knocked her to the ground and bound her with zip-ties.
Three assailants then ran upstairs to a bedroom, where Jones, her husband, a nurse and a safe were located, Mody said.
Jones, who was in bed after undergoing a medical procedure to prepare for knee surgery, was forced at gunpoint to open the safe while her husband and her nurse were restrained, the prosecutor said.
The nurse’s husband told the defendants that his wife has long-lasting trauma and nightmares because of their actions.
The effects of your violent acts have terribly affected our family.’'
He said he hoped the defendants would reflect on their criminal ways during their time behind bars and
find a way to correct things and make them right.’'
Mody said the assailants grabbed Rolex watches, rings, cash and other jewelry and fled the home. He said the estimated loss was about $50,000.
A United Parcel Service driver made a delivery at the house at the same time as the robbery and saw the armed men inside wearing ski masks, Mody said.
The driver was on the phone calling 911 when the defendants ran from the residence and jumped into an SUV, the prosecutor said. A helicopter crew
quickly spotted the vehicle and pulled it over on state Route 52.
All of the jewelry was recovered, except for a couple of rings and some cash, the prosecutor said. One ring was damaged and a bedroom door was busted, he said.