Felon who robbed San Jacinto seniors sentenced

BANNING – A felon who attacked and robbed two seniors heading home after a night of gambling at the Soboba Casino in San Jacinto was sentenced today to 10 years in state prison.

Curtis Lee Howard Jr., 26, pleaded guilty on Aug. 31 to robbery and a sentence-enhancing allegation of committing a felony while on bail. He also admitted one count of possession of controlled substances while armed, stemming from a separate earlier arrest. In exchange for his admissions, prosecutors dropped charges of elder abuse and assault with a deadly weapon.

Riverside County Superior Court Judge Mark Johnson certified the terms of the plea deal and imposed the sentence stipulated by the prosecution and defense.

According to sheriff’s Sgt. Robert Duckett, an 82-year-old San Jacinto man and his 75-year-old wife, neither of whom were identified, were heading home from the Soboba Casino with an undisclosed amount of cash from table winnings when their vehicle was struck from behind in the predawn hours on Aug. 16.

The victims stopped at the intersection of Hewitt and Main streets to inspect the damage and confer with the driver of the SUV and were immediately confronted by Howard and a still-unidentified accomplice, who roughed up the male victim, Duckett said.

He said Howard and his cohort stripped the couple of their winnings, then jumped back in the SUV, speeding away and striking the victims’ vehicle in the process, further injuring the man, who was standing outside the car when it was sideswiped.

The victim was treated for non-life-threatening injuries. His wife was not physically harmed, according to the sergeant.

Based on evidence collected at the scene and at the casino, detectives summarily identified Howard and arrested him without incident the following day.

The other party remains at large.

According to court records, Howard has served time in state prison within the last five years, though the offenses were not disclosed. He was free on $75,000 bail, awaiting adjudication of a drug-related offense from Aug. 3,
when he was arrested for the robbery, records show.

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