Bethlehem home invasion suspects: We're not 'bad people' just desperate for money
Published: Friday, July 02, 2010, 11:52 AM Updated: Friday, July 02, 2010, 5:09 PM
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View full sizeExpress-Times Photo | BILL ADAMSLuis Martinez, left, and Jeremiah Nieves, next to him, said this morning that they're not "bad people" but they robbed and tied up two East Market Street residents in Bethlehem because they were desperate for money. They posed for this photo outside of district court.
Share The two Bethlehem men charged in an East Market Street home invasion robbery said today that they’re “not bad people” but that they robbed the house because they were desperate for money.
Luis Martinez, 26, and Jeremiah Nieves, 24, said they were especially hurting for money around the time of the June 20 robbery because both their daughters’ birthdays were that month.
“We’re not bad people, we’re just desperate,” Martinez said in court before this morning's arraignment.
“We just needed some money,” Nieves added.
While waiting to be arraigned by District Judge Roy Manwaring this morning, Nieves and Martinez talked freely about the charges they face and how Nieves was recovering from being shot by Allentown police after he allegedly cocked a gun at officers during his apprehension.
Nieves and Martinez are accused of tying up a Bethlehem couple in their basement and stealing their car, computers and money. They drove the Lexus sedan to Allentown, where they were later arrested after a chase.
As they reviewed the charges against them, Martinez and Nieves said they didn’t understand why they were charged with kidnapping.
“We didn’t take ’em nowhere,” Martinez said.
A law enforcement official in the courtroom said they were charged with kidnapping because they had kept the couple in their basement. Nieves and Martinez are accused of using duct tape and dog chains to tie up lawyer James Lutz and his wife in their home in the 200 block of East Market Street.
Nieves also raised his objection to the kidnapping charge to Manwaring.
“You may think, ‘We did not kidnap anyone. They were just in the basement,’” Manwaring said. “If the evidence is not there to hold that charge, it may go away.”
Manwaring set bail for both men at $500,000. The bail is on top of Nieves’ $1 million bail in Lehigh County and Martinez’s $750,000 bail in Lehigh.
Manwaring said he didn’t expect either man would be able to pay both bails, but he felt the high bail was appropriate for the charges.
“The charges before you — there are many, they are serious,” he said.
Martinez asked Manwaring if he thought they might be eligible for consideration of a concurrent sentence for their various charges.
“Let me put it this way,” Manwaring said. “If your defense attorney can arrange for a concurrent sentence, he would have done a very good job for you.”
Nieves and Martinez said they feared the kidnapping charge would earn them an especially long prison sentence.
“I should have robbed a bank for all this,” Nieves said. “We’ll probably do more time than the guy in Northampton who shanked those four people. We’ll probably do more time than he did for homicide.”
Allentown resident Michael Eric Ballard is charged with fatally stabbing four Northampton residents on Saturday. He previously served 15 years in jail for fatally stabbing an Allentown resident in 1991.
Nieves and Martinez asked Manwaring if they could waive their upcoming preliminary hearings during arraignment, but Manwaring said he wanted to follow the proper procedure and advised both men to seek attorneys. Both have received public defenders in Lehigh County but have yet to apply for them in Northampton County, they said.
“I do not want the record clouded on this matter,” Manwaring said.
Nieves and Martinez said they wanted to waive their preliminary hearings because they want to start serving their time in state prison.
“I hope they don’t keep me in county for too long. I want to go upstate,” Nieves said.
“Let’s speed this up, let’s get upstate,” Martinez said. “The only thing that’s stressing me out is my family. Otherwise this doesn’t bother me.”
Nieves, who was shot in both the chest and the arm, lamented his injuries. He had trouble picking up paperwork and he had a small bandage on his inner right arm. Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin has said preliminary evidence indicates Allentown police officer Ryan Koons’ use of force against Nieves was justified.
“My hand is messed up, man,” Nieves said to Martinez. “They tried to kill me, man. I died on the way to the hospital.”
“They revived you, man?” Martinez asked.
“Yeah, thank God,” Nieves responded.
In Northampton County, both men face charges of kidnapping, robbery, aggravated assault, conspiracy, reckless endangerment, unlawful restraint, theft, possession of an instrument of crime, possession of a prohibited offensive weapon, receiving stolen property and access device fraud.