October 23, 2014

Elyria
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Burge: Promise made him stick with light sentence for burglar

Jeremy Roldan sits in Lorain County Common Pleas Judge James Burge's courtroom following a hearing in which he was sentenced to probation for a string of Lorain burglaries. BRAD DICKEN/CHRONICLE

Jeremy Roldan sits in Lorain County Common Pleas Judge James Burge’s courtroom following a hearing in which he was sentenced to probation for a string of Lorain burglaries. BRAD DICKEN/CHRONICLE

ELYRIA — Lorain County Common Pleas Judge James Burge said he wasn’t happy about sentencing a Lorain man who had pleaded guilty to drug charges and a string of burglaries to probation on Friday, but he felt he had no choice.

“I’m stuck,” the judge said.

Burge said he had promised Jeremy Roldan that he wouldn’t send him to prison when the 20-year-old entered guilty pleas in his cases in March and felt he had to keep his word. But the judge also said that was before he learned additional details about Roldan and his crimes.

“The reason you’re not going to prison is we made a big mistake here. One probation violation and I’m going to correct it,” Burge told Roldan after warning him that he had at least three years’ worth of prison time he could impose.

The sentence didn’t sit well with prosecutors or Lorain police.

Lorain police Sgt. Buddy Sivert said that when Roldan was being questioned by Detective Jake Morris about the 10 burglaries he admitted to last year, Morris asked him what he would have done if he had encountered a homeowner during one of the break-ins.

“He told Morris that he would beat the (expletive) out of them so they couldn’t identify him,” he said.

Sivert said he considers burglary a violent crime, even if someone isn’t physically assaulted and Roldan had planned to attack someone if caught. To him, he said, that meant Roldan belonged in prison, not back on the streets.

“We understand on certain cases people deserve probation, but any crime of violence we don’t want probation,” he said.

Lorain police and other law enforcement agencies in the county have become more vocal over the past year about what they see as lenient sentences.

County Prosecutor Dennis Will said he, too, would have liked to see Roldan incarcerated. He said Roldan could have been involved in hundreds of burglaries over the years.

Both Burge and defense attorney Jenifer Berki said their recollection of the plea bargaining in the case is that Assistant County Prosecutor Jennifer Riedthaler had agreed to defer to the court when it came to sentencing and Burge indicated he would be willing to give probation in the case.

Will said while he hasn’t reviewed a transcript of that hearing, he doesn’t believe Riedthaler agreed to remain silent and would have objected to a probation sentence. But he also said information about Roldan’s plan to beat any homeowner he encountered wasn’t included in the file originally sent over by Lorain police.

In the letter to Sivert, dated April 14, Burge wrote that Riedthaler had already negotiated the case by the time police forwarded the additional information about Roldan.

“Please have the men furnish this type of information with their reports to the grand jury,” Burge wrote. “Then otherwise, the assistant prosecutor will resolve the case with no input from the police. Everybody raises hell about it at sentencing, but the damage is done.”

Both Sivert and Burge said have talked and want to meet in the near future to discuss opening up communication so that similar incidents don’t happen. They said they would like Will or another prosecutor to be involved in those talks.

But Will said he has reservations about such a meeting because no one from the defense bar would be included. He said similar discussions in the past have included defense attorneys.

Will said he doesn’t have a problem with efforts being made to improve communications, although his office already talks to police on a regular basis.

“We are in communication with the police departments,” he said.

Burge said the problem with Roldan’s sentencing has led to him change how he will handle plea bargains in his courtroom going forward.

“I have committed that I will not commit to any sentence not agreed upon by both parties,” he said.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com. Follow him on Twitter @BradDickenCT.


  • Brian_Reinhardt

    Then we can only hope the person he “beats the expletive out of” is when he breaks into Burge’s house.

    • Larry Crnobrnja

      That is an inappropriate comment.

      • Simon Jester

        Piss off.

        • Larry Crnobrnja

          Silly boy.

      • Brian_Reinhardt

        Sarcasm…correct?

        • Larry Crnobrnja

          No sir, no sarcasm. It’s never appropriate to wish physical harm on any law abiding citizen. And I believe you’re better than your original comment.

          • Brian_Reinhardt

            A sitting judge who continually doles out “slap on the wrist” punishment to criminals borders on criminality itself.

            Not to mention the possible criminal investigation going on regarding Burge.

            I stand by my original comment.

          • Larry Crnobrnja

            Maybe I was wrong, you aren’t better than your orignal comment. Never mind.

          • Brian_Reinhardt

            Let Burge do the light sentencing in YOUR neighborhood, then come back here and comment on how we feel.

  • Stan K

    This judge is a disgrace to the gown and gavel he sits behind.He is obviously a coward and fears the backlash of any sentence he recommends on his public life. It appears his judgment is clouded by fear of not being able to move about freely in society without looking over his shoulder.There are many authority figures like him out there,who really should not be in the position they are considering the conflict of interest they bare.

  • grannyof6

    The judge made a “promise”, that is ridiculous!! For GOD sake he’s the judge, this idiot plead guilty he should be in prison, don’t go past go don’t collect $200. you’re going to prison a–hole! Did Judge Burge forget “that promises are made to be broken” Such nonsense! No wonder there is no trust in the court systems, what a joke!!!

  • LookBackTwo

    Just Burge being Burge.

  • oldruss

    At the outset, it is the prosecutor’s office that should be doing the plea bargaining with the defendant, and in any event, the prosecutor’s office should not be deferring its sentencing recommendation (which IS one of the prosecution’s main bargaining chips to get the defendant to plead guilty, the other being dropping certain charges) to Judge Burge. Right or wrong, Judge Burge’s reputation for leniency towards criminal defendants is no secret. It is inconceivable that the prosecutor’s office left it up to Judge Burge to negotiate a sentence with this defendant.

  • tomfeher

    I guess Burge finds it more important to keep promises to criminals then to keep the promise he made to uphold the law

    • oldruss

      No one is saying that what Judge Burge did is contrary to law. Sentencing is at the discretion of the court, except when the General Assembly attaches mandatory minimum sentences to certain criminal offenses.

      • Simon Jester

        Burge does whatever the hell he wants, all the time. It needs to stop.

  • golfingirl

    The entire Lorain County system is dysfunctional and broken.

    A change is long overdue. But as long as the letter “D” is behind their name on the ballot, it will be the same old story.

    Interesting, that in cities like Avon Lake, they do not identify party affliation on most local candidates at the voting booth.

    • oldruss

      At the General Election (November) no judge anywhere in Ohio has any party identification attached to his or her name.

      • golfingirl

        Did not know that. Thanks for the information.

        • Guest

          Judge Burge is a true Republican. He use to be the chair of the party. The only reason he changed to a Dem was because in order for him to get rich as a lawyer he would need to be a D. He is now very wealthy and a successful because of the D behind his name.

          • HankKwah

            Burge has NO Republican leanings/tendencies. He’s lenient on criminals, much too sympathetic for the wrong reasons. Nothing about him or what’s he’s done even hints at conservatism.

          • Rtgh123

            Kind of like the Koch brothers have a D behind their name. Wait. Nevermind.

            Reading Chronicle Telegram comments is enormously entertaining. It’s like the high school dropouts gathering place.

          • Lisa

            You must sleep so peacefully at night!

          • golfingirl

            Then you should fit right in.

            So, exactly what have the Democrats done for Lorain County lately?

      • Daniel Sutter

        The party puts their name on their flyers and the brainless still do whatever the party tells them to. too bad the rest of us have to put up with their bad choices.

  • SniperFire

    C-T, always carrying the water for their liberal cohorts.

    • Rtgh123

      This isn’t a coherent comment. You should have finished high school.

      • Simon Jester

        Should he have used smaller words?

        • Rtgh123

          Yes, then you might have been able to read them.

  • Sher

    Sad all around. I had this young man in my class. If I remember correctly, either his aunt and uncle or grandparents took care of him/raised him from when he was little. Parents split. He was very troubled and angry – but he did have a soft exterior. And I remember he loved working on cars. It makes me sad to see kids like that end up in the court system – he did have people who loved and took care of him. Makes me sad:(

  • Lisa

    For the future defendants appearing in the “good judge’s” court room…. I feel sorry for you…. He will now be imposing harsh prison terms to people that have NO criminal priors and commit crimes like shoplifting food to feed their family, (because they had their HOME BURGERLIZED by scumbags, and they have no money now!!) Yep, you will get 3 years for your 1st theft offense! SMDH!

    • Lisa

      I would request a “new judge” if I had to appear in front of him… (can you do that?)

    • Brian_Reinhardt

      No Lisa, you have it wrong.

      Burge is known for his “be kind to criminals” approach to sentencing.

      • Lisa

        Exactly… Be kind to CRIMINALS and slam the books at the 1st time offenders… (it’s backwards)!!

  • Lisa

    Too bad he wasn’t confronted by a homeowner with a CCW…. (I don’t think he would’ve “beat the S*#T out em” then!)

    • JHL27

      Homeowner exercising their rights, no need for a CCW.

    • Jeremy Roldan

      lol are you serious? someone with a CCW doesnt scare me, better just hope mines dnt go off 1st ;) & im more worried bout ppl that dnt have licenses.

  • GreatRedeemer

    Not surprising considering this is the same judge that sentenced that convicted killer Danny a few years back to probation, I do believe he had (has) a 9 PM curfew.

  • grannyof6

    Why should there be a “plea deal” at all or ever for any crime? “If you do the crime then do the time”!

  • Spec440

    How about the promise you made to the public to hand out fair and just punishment to criminals? How about that? You need to look in the mirror and ask yourself what side you’re really on.

    • Simon Jester

      The man has a giant poster of Che Guevara in his office, what side do you think he’s on?

  • Simon Jester

    Remove Burge.

    This needs to stop, and that man is a slap in the face to our justice system.

  • Mian

    Can Judges be recalled? Burge is a disgrace to our community.

  • golfingirl

    Jeremy will be back very soon.

    20 years old and already a career criminal.

    Dodged a “bullet” this time, may not be so lucky the next time.

  • stillsleepyeyes

    sound like he is building up his resume for when he gets voted out this term……………….this is the only way he can win a case…………………being the judge

  • Jeremy Roldan

    im full Puerto Rican but damn 8 1/2 months with no sun made me pale 4real…i look like a white person…well now that im FREE & on the STREETS again i can get my color back.