Thu Mar 27, 2:16 PM ET
WILKES-BARRE, Pa. - A judge known for creative sentencing has ordered three Spanish-speaking men to learn English or go to jail.
The men, who faced prison for criminal conspiracy to commit robbery, can remain on parole if they learn to read and write English, earn their GEDs and get full-time jobs, Luzerne County Judge Peter Paul Olszewski Jr. said.
The men, Luis Reyes, Ricardo Dominguez and Rafael Guzman-Mateo, plus a fourth defendant, Kelvin Reyes-Rosario, all needed translators when they pleaded guilty Tuesday.
"Do you think we are going to supply you with a translator all of your life?" the judge asked them.
The four, ranging in age from 17 to 22, were in a group that police said accosted two men on a street in May. The two said they were asked if they had marijuana, told to empty their pockets, struck on the head, threatened with a gun and told to stay off the block.
Attorneys for the men said they were studying the legality of the ruling and had not decided whether to appeal. One of the attorneys, Ferris Webby, suggested that the ruling was good for his client, Guzman-Mateo.
"My client is happy," Webby said. "I think it's going to help him."
The judge sentenced the four men to jail terms of four to 24 months. But he gave the three men, who already had served at least four months, immediate parole. Reyes-Rosario remains imprisoned on an unrelated drug charge.
Olszewski ordered the three to return with their parole officers in a year and take an English test. "If they don't pass, they're going in for the 24 (months)," he said.
Olszewski is known for outside-the-box sentencing.
He has ordered young defendants who are school dropouts to finish school. He often orders defendants to get full-time employment. But he also has his staff coordinate with an employment agency to help them find the jobs.