Orange District Court judge orders 3 alleged stabbers held without bail

By DOMENIC POLI

Staff Writer

Published: 03-28-2023 7:40 PM

ORANGE — A district court judge ruled Tuesday that the state had met its burden in arguing that no amount of bail would ensure public safety in the case of three men who were arrested after allegedly stabbing a man they know on North Main Street before leading police on a high-speed chase ending in Belchertown.

Orange District Court Judge Laurie MacLeod ordered Ali Ayala, 22, of Springfield, Alex Santana, 31, of Chicopee, and Juan Rodriguez, 31, also of Chicopee, to be held without the right to bail for up to 120 days while their attorneys finish collecting evidence.

All three pleaded not guilty to various charges — including attempted murder — on March 20 after having been arrested earlier in the day. Additionally, Santana has been charged with receiving stolen property exceeding $1,200 in value, malicious destruction of property exceeding $1,200 in value, resisting arrest and possession of a Class B drug.

Ayala faces charges of receiving stolen property exceeding $1,200 in value, malicious destruction of property exceeding $1,200 in value, failure to stop for police, speeding, reckless operation of a motor vehicle, unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, resisting arrest and a marked lanes violation. There were also three warrants out for Ayala’s arrest.

Meanwhile, Rodriguez faces charges of receiving stolen property exceeding $1,200 in value, malicious destruction of property exceeding $1,200 in value and resisting arrest.

Assistant District Attorney Jillian Parent, who is prosecuting these cases for the state, successfully argued that the defendants pose a threat to the alleged victim and the public. Each of the three men are represented by different attorneys.

Parent said Santana was “essentially the mastermind behind this attack.” She said there had been animosity between Santana and the alleged victim. Santana allegedly enticed the man to socialize with him, Ayala and Rodriguez in a van loaned to Santana by his father-in-law, who was fixing Santana’s vehicle. Parent alleges the four men were driving around when Ayala, who was driving the vehicle, stopped the van in the area of North Main Street and Oxbow and Cross roads at around 4 a.m. under the guise of needing to search for a lost blunt and lighter.

Parent alleges the three defendants then attacked and stabbed the other man, who managed to run away and call 911 to report the assault. According to Orange Police, the alleged victim was treated and released from Athol Hospital. Parent said authorities responded to the scene and ordered the men to stop, only for them to flee in the van, leading authorities on 24-mile pursuit through multiple towns before crashing on George Hannum Street in Belchertown and fleeing on foot until being apprehended. The prosecuting attorney said the van traveled more than 100 mph during the chase and the defendants threw construction screws at pursuing police vehicles, causing damage to the vehicles’ windshields and hoods.

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Parent also stated that Santana was arrested in a wooded area after being tracked by a State Police K9. According to Parent, the K9 bit Santana, who repeatedly punched the dog in response before verbally abusing police and needing to be carried out of the woods.

Parent said Santana is out on $10,000 bail from Dudley District Court. Santana, in a side room during Tuesday’s hearing, repeatedly shook his head at Parent’s allegations.

Attorney Michael Sheridan, who is representing Santana, said he has text messages to prove the alleged victim has boasted about having a gang affiliation and threatened his client’s loved ones and at least one of his own cousins. The attorney said Santana worked until becoming a stay-at-home father to two children, including one with cystic fibrosis. He said Santana’s wife works full-time in health care.

Sheridan also said the alleged victim claims he was assaulted from behind and couldn’t see his specific attackers. The attorney then stated the alleged victim changed his story to say he was attacked with “a window breaker” and the state has submitted no evidence to suggest he was stabbed. Sheridan noted his client suffered extensive injuries from the dog and was simply trying to get the animal off of him. He also said Santana’s wife has filed for a restraining order against the alleged victim.

“He’s not a saint,” Sheridan said of the alleged victim. “He’s out there making threats.”

Parent briefly countered Sheridan’s argument by stating the prosecution alleges only that a dangerous weapon was used, not specifically a knife.

Moving on to Ayala, Parent said the youngest defendant is not licensed to operate a vehicle and drove the van from Springfield to Orange, where he participated in the attack. Parent alleges Ayala and Rodriguez switched seats mid-pursuit. She said Ayala fled from the crash scene and later told police he took a bus to a Dunkin’ Donuts a mile away on State Street, where he was ultimately apprehended after originally providing a false name to police. He went “to great lengths to avoid capture,” Parent told MacLeod.

Attorney Chris Borzumato, representing Ayala, said his client and the other defendants wanted to “work things out” with the alleged victim and settle their animosity. He added Ayala attempted to remove the man from the van, not attack him.

Parent said Rodriguez, who also fled into the woods following the crash in Belchertown, surrendered to police only after the K9 pursuit. She said Rodriguez has a history of defaulting on scheduled court appearances and has three convictions for resisting arrest.

Attorney David Simanski, representing Rodriguez, said he met his client last week and described him as very quiet and polite. He pointed out that his client, who once worked for a construction company, was sitting in the side room “like a gentleman” and had not been arrested since around 2016.

A pretrial hearing for the three defendants is scheduled for May 2. Parent told MacLeod the cases will likely be transferred to Franklin County Superior Court due to their severity.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or
413-930-4120.

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