April Schmidt looked toward a man in the gallery at Bridgeview’s courtroom 110 Wednesday, and tearfully said “I love you” as deputies led her into custody.
The Granite City woman was found guilty Wednesday for her role in the carjacking of an Orland Park restaurant employee, where a police chase followed.
Schmidt, 24, was convicted of aggravated vehicular hijacking and possession of stolen vehicle. In February, Jonathan Sarolas, 25, of Homer Glen, pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated vehicular hijacking and was sentenced to 12 years in prison in the same case.
Schmidt testified during her bench trial Wednesday in front of Judge John J. Hynes that she knew Sarolas was planning to rob someone on June 25, 2012, but was afraid to leave and get help. Schmidt was in a relationship with Sarolas, and had moved from Granite City to live with Sarolas. During the time they were together, she said in court that she never was threatened by him or felt unsafe around him, until the date of the robbery.
“I thought he was going to hurt me or kill me,” Schmidt said, about Sarolas’ actions on the robbery date.
Schmidt’s attorney Marc Gottreich said Wednesday that aside from fearing Sarolas’ actions during and before the robbery, she was cooperative with police throughout their efforts to catch Sarolas.
“She knew what he was going to do, but didn’t know how to stop him,” Gottreich said.
On June 25, 2012, Jonathan Sarolas and Schmidt hid in the bushes near the parking lot of Red Lobster in Orland Park around midnight. As soon as 25-year-old Marrisa Alverado, a restaurant employee, walked to her car after a shift, Sarolas held her up with a BB gun Schmidt bought earlier in the evening, got into the car and drove away with Schmidt. The two led police on a chase until Sarolas left the vehicle and ran, while Schmidt was caught. Sarolas was caught by police about a week later in Midlothian. He was on parole for previous burglary convictions.
Schmidt said Wednesday that Sarolas pushed her during the night of the robbery and pulled her by the hair.
While questioned by Assistant State’s Attorney John Hennings, Schmidt admitted to buying the BB gun with Sarolas’ money that was later used in the armed robbery.
Hennings said that she was “a full participant” in the crime during his closing statements.
“This was not a mistake,” Hennings said. “The only person who lost dignity was the Red Lobster employee.”
Hynes said before giving his verdict that while Schmidt was not the main force behind the robbery, she still was “criminally responsible” in her actions, specifically in buying the BB gun.
“Without her, this could not have happened,” Hynes said.
Schmidt’s bail was revoked and was taken into custody after Hynes gave his guilty verdict.
She will return for sentencing at a later date.
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