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SNAPSHOT / A GLIMPSE OF THE SYSTEM : Kidnaping at Knifepoint, Robbery and 2-Year Term

Abel Rubalcaba stepped out of his car on Oct. 13, 1989, to cash a check at a store on Olympic Boulevard at Soto Street when a woman approached and asked for a ride. Sorry, Rubalcaba said, and he turned away.

Suddenly, the woman pressed a knife against his chest. Get in the car, she ordered, and drive.

For seven hours at knifepoint, Rubalcaba, 24, did just that. Joined by two friends, the woman made him chauffeur them around the city, cruising aimlessly, stopping occasionally for beer. Finally, around midnight, she demanded his wallet. He gave it to her--and the $600 he had in it--then ran.

Two days later, police in Tucson, Ariz., spotted Rubalcaba’s stolen Ford and arrested its occupants, Angie Mendoza and Johnnie Diaz, a parolee from California. Rubalcaba identified them from a photo lineup. The pair were extradited to Los Angeles and pleaded not guilty.

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The district attorney’s office decided there was not enough evidence to prosecute Diaz and let him go. Angie Mendoza was charged with kidnaping, second-degree robbery and two counts of use of a deadly weapon. She was facing a maximum of 15 years in state prison.

Mendoza, an eighth-grade dropout with three children and 15 assumed names, was no stranger to the criminal justice system. She had been convicted repeatedly for misdemeanor burglary, prostitution, receiving stolen property and being under the influence of heroin.

On June 20, after more than a dozen continuances, Mendoza agreed to change her plea to guilty. In exchange, the district attorney’s office dropped all the allegations against her with the exception of second-degree robbery. For that, Mendoza received the lowest term permitted--two years.

She was credited with having served 249 days in jail, plus another 124 days in good-behavior and work credits, and arrived at prison on July 5.

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She will probably be out by summer.


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