Keith Norman, Forum News Service, Published April 22 2014
Former University of Jamestown student found guilty of terrorizingJAMESTOWN, N.D. - A former University of Jamestown student was found guilty of terrorizing Tuesday in an incident that led to a lockdown of the campus last November.
The jury of five men and seven women deliberated for about four hours before reaching the verdict against Robert Flores, 19, in Southeast District Court.
Flores, who is originally from Southgate, Calif., and is currently residing in Valley City, showed no emotion as the verdict was read. He, his family and William Mackenzie, his court-appointed defense attorney, declined to comment on the verdict.
Prosecuting attorney Katherine Marilyn Naumann said she was pleased with the decision and commended the judge and jury.
Flores was accused of threatening to kill and drink the blood of three University of Jamestown students in satanic rituals. The threats resulted in the university campus being placed on lockdown for about an hour Nov. 7. No one was hurt.
Flores testified in his own defense as the last witness in the trial Tuesday.
“It is possible I said those things,” Flores said. “I believe my friends that say I said those things, but I don’t recall anything from Monday of that week until I was in the (North Dakota) State Hospital.”
Three friends of Flores testified Monday that they grew concerned about the things Flores said and contacted university officials in the week before Nov. 7. University officials searched Flores’ room and the room of a female friend Nov. 5 and talked to them about rumors around campus that they were involved in rituals or possibly a suicide pact.
Flores was screened by psychiatric officials from South Central Human Service Center in the early morning hours of Nov. 7, according to testimony Monday by Jamestown police Lt. John Gletne. Flores was released and returned to the campus, which he left later that morning. When university officials couldn’t locate him, they placed the campus on lockdown at about 10:45 a.m.
Flores was taken into custody about an hour later and transported to the North Dakota State Hospital for evaluation.
Earlier legal troubles had resulted in a suspension for Flores from the UJ wrestling team. The problems included underage alcohol use and applying graffiti to a bus owned by the North Dakota National Guard.
Flores said these problems led to mental health evaluations in which he was diagnosed with depression, drug-induced psychosis and anxiety, and given prescription medication.
“I was given anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications,” he said. “It made me feel like I was not all there.”
He testified that drinking two or more bottles of cough syrup each day made him feel normal.
The jury instructions read by Judge Thomas Merrick included information concerning intoxication.
“Voluntary intoxication at the time of the offense does not eliminate criminal responsibility,” Merrick instructed the jurors.
The jury was instructed not to sympathize with those involved in the case.
“You are not to put yourself in the place of the victims or others,” Merrick said. “It is improper to reach a verdict based on sympathy.”
On Monday, Naumann asked jurors to put themselves in the victims’ shoes as part of her opening statement. Merrick admonished her for using a golden rule argument, which is not legal in North Dakota courts. The golden rule argument asks the jury to think like the victims of the case rather than as jurors.
The jury also was instructed that terrorizing was defined as intentionally placing another in fear through threats. Intentional conduct was defined as purposeful acts, although a person could also be found guilty of terrorizing if he had a reckless disregard of causing fears in others.
Naumann wrapped up the prosecution’s portion of the case Tuesday morning.
Witnesses included Dick Knapp, director of security for the University of Jamestown, who testified about dealing with Flores on the morning of Nov. 7.
Also testifying were Monica Noria and Elise Stewart. Both are University of Jamestown freshmen who were named in the alleged plot to sacrifice women. Both had been traveling with the UJ soccer team in Montana at the time of the incident.
The final prosecution witness was Gary Van Zinderen, dean of students at the university. He testified about the chain of events.
“We later determined that the search and talk on Nov. 5 possibly incited later incidents,” he said.
Van Zinderen also said the safety of the students and community was the primary concern on Nov. 7.
“I didn’t think I could protect the campus,” he said. “It was a very unknown situation. We had a concern for everyone on campus, including Robert.”
Ronald Flores, Robert Flores’ father, challenged that in his testimony.
“I was never notified by school officials something was going on,” he said. “The only contact from the University of Jamestown was from the coach when he was suspended from the wrestling team.”
Also testifying for the defense were Joshua Meade, who was working at Community Corrections when Flores was taken into custody there, and Eleni Koures, a friend of Robert Flores.
Koures testified by phone from Montana. She was the student friend who was close to Flores at the time. Koures also was included as a possible victim in the satanic rituals Flores allegedly talked about.
Koures testified that Flores seemed more aggressive and angry during the week leading up to Nov. 7, but never talked to her about satanic rituals.
Flores will be scheduled at a later date. The charge, a Class C felony, carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.