Man gets 13-plus years in robbery, shooting

Published 10:45 am Tuesday, August 30, 2016



A man convicted of firing a gun while robbing the Hiawatha Bar in December 2013 was sentenced to 13 years and 6 months in prison Monday in Mower County court, but County Attorney Kristen Nelsen argued for a longer sentence.

Miguel Angel Rodriguez, 45, was convicted earlier this summer of three felonies: first-degree aggravated robbery, being a convicted felon in possession of a pistol and second degree assault with a dangerous weapon.

On Dec. 21, 2013, Rodriguez fired a gun at a witness and fled the Hiawatha Bar after taking more than $2,000.

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In court Monday, Nelsen made the case that the jury also found Rodriguez to be a dangerous felon who committed his third violent crime.

Nelsen argued for a 240 month, or a roughly 20 year, prison term, which would have been a departure from the sentencing guidelines. However, Nelson said it was warranted based on the jury’s findings and Rodriguez’s history of violent crimes in Illinois, which include a second-degree murder conviction in 1991 — he was released in 2002 — and conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm in 2008, for which he was discharged in 2012.

“This defendant is a clear danger to public safety,” Nelson said.

Evan Larson, Rodriguez’s defense attorney, argued for 108 month — or 9 years — sentence based the guidelines, noting Rodriguez could have done harm when he fired a gunshot past a witness during the robbery, but he chose not to harm anyone, which Larson described as a sign that Rodriguez’s intention was to take the money and flee, not commit a violent crime.

Based on the jury’s findings, Judge Kevin Siefken sentenced Rodriguez to 162 months — or 13 and a half years — in prison for the first-degree robbery conviction. Rodriguez was also sentenced to a 5-year sentence for possessing the firearm, but that term will be served concurrently with the aggregated robbery sentence.

With good behavior, Rodriguez can be released after serving two-thirds of the sentence, or about 9 years, when he’d be eligible for supervised release.

After the hearing, Nelsen said she was disappointed Rodriguez did not receive the maximum sentence, and she said she was disappointed that Rodriguez will be released from prison sooner than her office wanted. She argued it was a rare chance for the court to enact a maximum sentence on a felon who is a danger to public safety and is at the maximum level on the sentencing guidelines.

She argued a maximum sentence, which is rare to reach under the state sentencing guidelines, was warranted due to the jury finding Rodriquez is a dangerous offender after his two prior convictions in Illinois.

The incident

At about 12:49 a.m. Dec. 21, 2013, officers responded to the Hiawatha Bar, 433 10th St. NE, for a report of a robbery and a gunshot. Police secured the area but no suspects were immediately identified.

The bartender reported a man, later identified as Rodriguez, had been drinking Budweiser with a woman for about an hour. When the bartender went outside, a witness saw Rodriguez take a blue money bag containing about $2,000 from next to the pull tabs. The witness started toward the end of the bar, but Rodriguez shot at him with a black revolver before walking quickly out the door.

In 2013, Hiawatha Bar owner Michele Morehouse told the Herald she wasn’t working at the time, but she said one of her bartenders and a few patrons were inside the building during the robbery.

“One of the customers was going to cut him off,” she said. “He got down, and the guy shot. I just can’t imagine. Thank God nobody was hurt because he did shoot a gun in there.”

Police later extracted the bullet from the Hiawatha Bar wall after it’d penetrated two outer wall panels, a sheet rock inner wall and imbedded in the exterior wall. Forensic examination completed by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension found the bullet to be consistent with a .38-caliber revolver.

In February 2014, the BCA was able to find fingerprints from five Budweiser cans collected at the scene, and authorities found a match through the Minnesota Convicted Offender DNA Database that May.

Austin police later contacted the Albert Lea Police Department upon learning Rodriguez’s girlfriend, Melissa Ann Quiroz, and matched the description of the woman with him in that bar during the robbery.

In October 2014, police recovered a Smith & Wesson .38-caliber revolver, which was recovered when Quiroz was arrested Jan. 19, 2014, for a DWI in White Bear Lake. Rodriguez was present during that incident.