GOSHEN — A judge lowered the court fees in an identity fraud case against a Goshen man who was also found not guilty of a 2016 double murder.
Circuit Court Judge Michael Christofeno reduced the public defender reimbursement fee from $500 to $100 for 25-year-old Diego Ramos, who was sentenced a year ago on identity fraud charges. In an unrelated case which charged him with a March 2016 double homicide in Goshen, another judge found him not guilty following a bench trial that December.
Ramos admitted to synthetic identity deception and counterfeiting government documents in April 2017. He was sentenced to 2-1/2 years in prison for the Level 6 felony and Class A misdemeanor, which was upheld on appeal.
But the Indiana Appeals Court also said the local court must hold a hearing to determine Ramos's ability to pay fines and fees. He was not in court Thursday and Christofeno ordered that he pay his court costs within 30 days of his release from custody, a date which was unclear because Ramos's attorney couldn't find where or whether he was being held.
Elizabeth Bellin said she suspected he was in federal custody but wasn't able to confirm it.
Ramos was brought to the U.S. illegally at age 3 and had used a cousin's identity to get work as an adult. At his sentencing for the identity fraud, he volunteered to return to Mexico instead of spending time in prison.
Christofeno observed that there was no point in issuing a warrant to force him to appear in court and said he now considers this a closed case, which only needed to have the appeal issue cleaned up.
In the double murder case, the judge's predecessor, Terry Shewmaker, found Ramos not guilty of the shooting deaths of Jose Nava-Orozco and Marco Carmona-Gonzalez. Shewmaker had presided over a two-day bench trial, which Ramos requested rather than a jury trial, during which his co-defendant refused to testify against him.
Shewmaker cited the lack of testimony from 22-year-old Luis Rivas in his decision to acquit Ramos. Rivas is serving a 12-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to assisting a criminal with a gang affiliation enhancement, in exchange for both murder charges being dropped.
Shewmaker held Rivas in contempt of court for refusing to testify and imposed a one-year sentence, which his attorney appealed. Christofeno later vacated the contempt finding in light of the sentence Rivas was already serving.