Starnet News:

Tuesday, 15 June 1999

Man eludes prison again despite probation breach By Inger Sandal
The Arizona Daily Star

A man who escaped a murder charge by testifying against a man he hired to avenge a drug rip-off will be allowed to remain on probation despite admitting to violations.

Damien Jasso, 22, admitted he failed to contact his probation officer in February and March, and moved without the officer's approval.

Pima County Superior Court Judge Edgar B. Acuna allowed Jasso to remain on probation yesterday. He could have sent him to prison for up to 2 1/2 years.

Jasso testified last year in the trial of Jesus Leonardo Sanchez that he had hired Sanchez and Cecil Rodriguez in July 1997 to intimidate a man who had robbed him. Instead, the men mistakenly killed Ronald Lee Lopez, 21.

Jasso said the men killed a friend's uncle, Richard Norzagaray, 35, after Jasso failed to pay them the additional money they wanted.

Sanchez, 21, was convicted of the two murders and could face the death penalty. Rodriguez is a fugitive.

Jasso was allowed to plead guilty to solicitation of aggravated assault and given three years' probation.


Prosecutor Rick Unklesbay asked the judge to revoke Jasso's probation.

``I think people have bent over backward in terms of getting him probation to begin with,'' he said. ``It doesn't seem like Mr. Jasso wants to work as hard as everyone else did on his behalf.''

Jasso told the judge he would not have failed to meet his probation obligations if authorities had moved him to another state as was discussed. His attorney said Jasso's fear took over his priorities and that he committed no criminal offenses.