Two men who pleaded guilty in connection with a wild robbery attempt in York in 2019 have each been sentenced to more than 15 years in federal prison.

A third man who admitted to being part of the scheme will be sentenced Wednesday.

Court documents show Eric Mercado, Steven Hardy and Nathaniel Rivera came from Massachusetts in 2019 in hopes of stealing money and marijuana from a medical marijuana caregiver who lived in York. Instead, their intended victim fought back with a liquor bottle, and was shot at by two of the men before he ran to a neighbor’s house. Rivera turned himself in to law enforcement a couple weeks after the robbery, and the other two men were arrested three months later.

U.S. District Judge Jon Levy has overseen all three cases and imposed the penalties for two defendants during separate hearings in Portland on Tuesday. All three pleaded guilty in February 2020, but their sentencings were delayed during the pandemic until the court could convene in person.

“This home invasion certainly can be described … as brazen, dangerous, life-threatening, showing a complete disregard for human life and creating circumstances which easily could have resulted in death,” Levy said during one hearing.

The victim has never been identified in court documents beyond his initials – R.S. He attended the sentencings Tuesday with his family and wrote a letter to the court about his experience. That statement was sealed by the court, but Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Perry read excerpts to the judge Tuesday.

The man wrote that the attempted robbery changed his life and made him less trusting. He described how he stayed away from his children for months after the incident because he was afraid for their safety if the perpetrators came back.

“I truly believe their intent was to kill me,” the man wrote.

Mercado pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit a Hobbs Act robbery, or robbery “affecting interstate or foreign commerce,” one count of Hobbs Act robbery and one count of discharging a firearm during a crime of violence. The latter carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years. Levy sentenced him Tuesday to 16 years.

Hardy pleaded guilty to the same crimes. Levy sentenced him Tuesday to 15 1/2 years in prison.

Both defendants delivered emotional statements during their hearings, saying they felt remorse and embarrassment about their actions, promising to be better fathers to their children in the future.

“Things got out of hand,” Mercado said. “I apologize to you. I apologize to my family.”

“I walked this road, and I will do everything to make sure my children never walk the path I did, and I will never walk that path again,” Hardy said.

Rivera, who is set to be sentenced Wednesday, also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit a Hobbs Act robbery. The maximum penalty for that crime is 20 years in prison, but Rivera agreed not to appeal a sentence that is less than five years.

Court documents describe Mercado and Rivera as the organizers of the robbery, but Perry told the judge Tuesday that Rivera faced a lesser penalty because he did not fire a weapon on the night in question, and because he provided information about the case to investigators.

In an affidavit, police alleged Mercado had wanted to make up for the recent loss of thousands of dollars worth of cocaine, and the conspirators thought they could net between $100,000 and $200,000 during the robbery.

The prosecutor also filed a written narrative of the night in question, which the defendants agreed not to contest. That document says the victim knew Rivera from his marijuana business, and the three defendants worked with others on the robbery plan.

Evidence presented at a trial would include text messages, testimony from eyewitnesses and forensic reports about the crime scene. Perry also played a video captured on a surveillance camera, which showed the men chasing the victim from the house and captured the sound of a gunshot.

The prosecutor said Rivera called the victim on May 10, 2019, and said he was with two women who wanted to come over and party. They later went to the man’s house, drank alcohol and socialized in a hot tub. Rivera then unlocked the door for Mercado and Hardy, who later arrived armed with a shotgun and a handgun. They attempted to rob the man, but he resisted. Both men fired their weapons but missed the victim, who was able to flee the house and escape.

In the separate hearings, Perry described both Mercado and Hardy as men with long criminal histories, and he said they acted without regard for the safety of other people that night.

“Only by the grace of God is this in federal court as a Hobbs Act robbery and not as a murder case in state court,” Perry said.

The judge also credited the man’s quick thinking.

“It’s not often that I’m surprised by what I see, but this is truly out of the ordinary,” Levy said. “I think it is because of the victim’s presence of mind that he saved his life.”

The defense lawyer for each man described substance use disorder as one of several negative factors in their lives. But they also pointed to periods of sobriety and stable employment as signs that they could lead successful lives outside of prison. Mercado’s family crowded onto a bench in the courtroom, and his mother and 14-year-old son both asked the court to be lenient. Hardy’s father and former employer attended his hearing and spoke on his behalf.

In both cases, Levy said he imposed penalties that would address the seriousness of the crime, but he also considered their future with their children. He encouraged them to get any treatment they need for substance use disorder and mental illness, as well as vocational training that could benefit them upon release.

“You have things to be proud of,” he said to Mercado. “You have reasons to live. If you serve your sentence, you serve your time and you come out, and you make something of yourself, then you will have given your children a gift, that example that people can redeem themselves.”

In their plea agreements, Mercado and Hardy both waived their rights to appeal a sentence that was less than 17 years. The judge also ordered them to pay more than $3,700 in restitution.

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