GUILTY! Rosson Convicted Over Spilled Milk at Walmart
SAN ANGELO, TX—Jurors took only 40 minutes Tuesday evening to find James Rosson guilty of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon by driving his GMC Yukon into Ernest Ortiz in the Walmart on S. Byrant Blvd. parking lot last December.
The eight women and four men spent the day hearing witnesses for the prosecution and defense explain how Rosson fled the Walmart parking lot after an altercation between the two men escalated from an argument to aggravated assault using a motor vehicle. All the testimony paled though, compared to the video evidence.
Prosecutors showed the jury the vehicular assault in high definition from four different Walmart cameras in vivid color. The videos showed Rosson’s white SUV turn in front of another vehicle and stop suddenly in the crosswalk in front of the store. Ernest Ortiz and his wife were leaving Walmart and Rosson’s vehicle almost hit them. Video and testimony shows Rosson stop and Ernest Ortiz with groceries in his left hand and a gallon of milk in his right tap the side of Rosson’s vehicle. Rosson then rolled down his window and a verbal argument ensued.
Video showed Ortiz and his wife Minerva continue to argue with Rosson as they pass in front of the SUV. At that point, Rosson’s Yukon lurches forward nudging Mr. Ortiz. Ortiz responded by slamming the milk jug on the hood of the vehicle splattering milk everywhere. Ortiz then threw the jug at the driver’s open window. At the same time, Mrs. Ortiz is seen slamming her hand down on the hood of the SUV, too.
As Mr. Ortiz crosses over in front of the vehicle, it lurches forward again striking Ortiz and throwing him in the air. He landed about five feet away on the pavement.
The video shows Rosson stop and get out of his vehicle and walk over to Ortiz, who is getting up on his knees. Mrs. Ortiz yells at Mr. Ortiz to stay down and also begins yelling at Rosson telling him to, “Get out of here! Get out of here!”
Rosson testified that he panicked, got back in his vehicle and drove away. The video then shows San Angelo police officers arrive on the scene followed by an ambulance. Mr. Ortiz is taken by ambulance to Shannon Medical Center where he is treated and released with minor injuries.
Police testimony showed Rosson drove home. The next day, Rosson reports his SUV as stolen. Police go to his residence on Avenue N to take his statement. The following day, Rosson reports to police an acquaintance called and said his SUV was on Ben Ficklin Rd. Rosson told police he retrieved his vehicle. When officers interviewed him, he couldn’t produce evidence that he received that phone call.
Detective Jason Chegwidden then called Rosson in for an interview about the stolen vehicle case. Jurors saw the hour long video of that interview. At one point, Chegwidden showed Rosson photographs taken from the Walmart videos and Rosson then confessed that he was driving the Yukon at Walmart and struck Ortiz that day.
One witness, Diana Tovar who works at Armenta’s Restaurant in San Angelo, required a translator. The translator interpreted the English of attorneys and translated the Spanish Tovar spoke. Tovar testified she saw the argument and the milk spilled all over the place and that the SUV hit the man and the driver got out of the car to check on him.
Rosson testified in his own defense. He told jurors he didn’t mean to hit Ortiz with his vehicle, he just wanted to scare him. Both Mr. Ortiz and Mrs. Ortiz testified for the prosecution. They told jurors Mr. Ortiz slammed the milk jug on the SUV and threw it at the vehicle and Mrs. Ortiz slammed her hand down on the hood of the vehicle. Mr. Ortiz testified that, “He cussed at me and I cussed at him.”
Rosson said, “I made a mistake, a bad mistake I suppose. I didn’t mean to hurt him at all.”
In closing arguments, prosecuting attorney Richard Villarreal told jurors Rosson was mad and his reaction was reckless but the act was intentional.
Defense attorney Thomas Williams told jurors Rosson showed poor judgement for leaving the scene and lying, but asked jurors to look at the video; it wasn’t Rosson’s intent to harm Ortiz.
At the end of the day, literally, jurors took only 40 minutes to find Rosson guilty of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
Judge Ben Woodward instructed the jury to return Wednesday morning at 8:45 a.m. to begin the punishment phase of the trial. Rosson could face 5 to 99 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.