January 21, 2013 | 2:37pm
In California criminal cases, judges have three basic sentencing options: midterm, lowterm and upper term.
Judges most commonly hand guilty defendants the midterm unless there are valid factors in mitigation or aggravation that deserve the raising or lowering of the punishment.
Robert Cande Rodriguez, Jr. helped perform a violent San Juan Capistrano home invasion robbery in Dec. 2009 in a gated community and isn't happy that Orange County Superior Court Judge William Froeberg departed from the midterm norm to give him the toughest allowable punishment.
But Froeberg thinks he was justified.
"The defendants were armed, covered their faces with masks, burst into the home of an unsuspecting husband and wife in the evening hours and forced them to produce their cash and jewelry at gunpoint, bound them face down on the floor," he said at the sentencing hearing. "The danger to both the occupants and the perpetrators is clearly self-evident."
Froberg, one of the county's longest serving criminal judges, also mentioned that Rodriquez took a leadership role in the robbery and is the bandit that knew the security code at the community's gate.
Rodriguez appealed, noting that he'd had a clean record prior to the robbery and claiming that Froeberg had no legal justification to throw the proverbial book at him.
He says he is not, as the judge labeled him, a danger to society.
But this month a California Court of Appeal based in Santa Ana declared that "first-time offenders" are not automatically exempt from receiving the upper term punishment, noted the leeway given judges to pick punishment and agreed with Froeberg that there is "more than sufficient evidence" of this robber's "dangerousness."
Upshot: Rodriguez, 26, will continue to serve his 12-year and 4-month sentence inside the Corrections Corporation of America's Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility in Tutwiler, Mississippi.