Last week, the Hidalgo County District Attorney’s Office provided notice to each defendant in the La Plaza Mall robbery case of evidence that is material to guilt or punishment.
That disclosure includes five people already sentenced in the case.
Public information on the nature of that evidence is scant so far, but a motion for a sentencing reconsideration made by 27-year-old Miguel Quintanilla Cardenas points in the direction of claims of committing the act under “duress.”
Cardenas and six others stormed the La Plaza Mall in July of 2018 and rushed into the Deutsch & Deutsch jewelry store, smashing glass cases with “mini sledge hammers” as they tried to make off with designer watches worth millions.
The robbery caused panic in McAllen as reports of armed gunmen and gunshots at the mall swirled through the community.
Now, it appears there’s a late-in-the-game twist in the brazen daylight robbery.
On Sept. 13, two days after the state provided notice to all of the defendants of the new information, Cardenas’ attorney, Sergio J. Sanchez, said in a motion that a report corroborates a claim of duress Cardenas made from the outset of the case.
“Counsel did not have this information at any point during the exchange of discovery, on the date of the open plea to the Court, nor on the date of sentencing,” the motion states. “The matter of duress is an issue that the Court should factor into its sentencing calculations.”
The motion does not delve any further into the nature of this report and a message left at Sanchez’s office asking about the development was not returned.
Hidalgo County District Attorney Ricardo Rodriguez said as soon as his office received the information, prosecutors immediately turned it over to the defense attorneys representing the defendants.
“We received the information from some individuals in custody,” Rodriguez said, adding that he couldn’t elaborate on those people.
The DA said his office believes the information only pertains to one individual in the case.
The notice provided to all the defendants, however, references a document or report from the Office of Inspector General – Texas Juvenile Justice Department.
Cardenas was sentenced to 14 years in prison on Aug. 8, the same day 24-year-old Brayan Oliver Melchor received the stiffest sentence yet handed down in the case: 25 years.
When Melchor addressed state District Judge Israel Ramon Jr. at sentencing, he claimed he was coerced.
“I did it because I was threatened,” Melchor said at the time.
The second to last suspect to be sentenced, 44-year-old Raul Alberto Rangel, is set to learn his fate Thursday morning while 25-year-old Abner Zepeda Posos is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 23.
Editor’s note: This story was updated to add remarks from Hidalgo County District Attorney Ricardo Rodriguez.