The 18-year-old man accused of trying to stab a Rossmoor jogger to death in a seemingly random attack last month, pleaded not guilty to multiple charges including attempted murder, in an Orange County courtroom Monday.
Wearing an orange jumpsuit, James Anthony Rivas, also a Rossmoor resident, sat behind a black caged-off area and said little. He remains in custody with bail set at $1 million. However, after the brief arraignment, his attorney Mark Fredrick indicated that Rivas isn’t the violent criminal investigators would make him out to be.
Speaking with Patch after the arraignment, Fredrick said he had not had much time to study the documents presented by the prosecution, but after meeting Rivas he has seen a disconnect.
“The charges are completely out of character of the person I’ve met,” Fredrick said. “He has no prior record. He comes from a good family.”
However, Senior Deputy District Attorney Brett Brian has no such doubts that the right man is behind bars. The state has a good case against the defendant, he added.
“We got the right guy,” Brian said.
For the first time, Brian offered a motive for the attack, adding that at this early stage, however, any theories are “speculation.”
“You know it’s hard to say,” Brian said. “It looks to us to be an attempted robbery gone bad.”
On Oct. 29, Rivas was charged with one count each of attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, mayhem and attempted second-degree robbery, with sentence-enhancing allegations of attempted premeditated murder and inflicting great bodily harm, according to court records.
If convicted, Rivas faces a maximum sentence of life in state prison.
Rivas was arrested by Orange County Sheriff’s Deputies Oct. 26, as he was leaving his home at about 7:45 p.m. O, two days after the attack in the 3200 block of Bostonian Drive.
At about 9 p.m. Oct. 23, Rivas allegedly approached a 27-year-old Jane Doe, who was jogging through a residential neighborhood in Rossmoor, according to the D.A.
Rivas then allegedly snuck up behind Doe, grabbed her and stabbed her several times with a knife, cutting her face, back, arm and hand.
After Doe knocked the knife out of his hand, Rivas allegedly picked the knife up again and chased Doe and continued to stab her.
Rivas is also accused of fleeing the scene after a neighbor heard screaming and came outside.
Doe was taken to the hospital, treated for non-life threatening injuries and released.
Interviews with area residents led investigators to Rivas, who fit the description provided by the victim and was known to ride a BMX bike and carry knives, said Gail Krause of the Orange County Sheriff's Department.
Rivas, who lives about three blocks from where the assault happened at 9:11 p.m. Tuesday, ran away from sheriff's deputies Thursday night, but they quickly took him into custody, Krause said.
Investigators found a knife nearby that will be analyzed at the Orange County Crime Lab, she said.
Upon hearing her screaming, a resident of the community rushed outside, and the assailant fled on a BMX bicycle, according to Jim Amormino with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
“He made no attempt to sexually assault her,” Amormino said, “and he didn't say one word. She said he looked angry.”
-- City News Service contributed to this story.