AUBURN — A Minnesota man charged with robbery and assault of a man on a downtown Lewiston sidewalk in April lost his bid Tuesday to block from trial the results of a photo lineup.

Fernando Novas De La Cruz, 24, of Detroit Lakes, Minn., filed a motion through his attorney to suppress evidence in his case that had been scheduled for trial. A jury had been picked to start hearing his case Wednesday.

But Androscoggin County Superior Court Justice MaryGay Kennedy said Tuesday at the suppression hearing that the trial will be rescheduled because De La Cruz didn’t have an interpreter translating English into Spanish during jury selection. She had De La Cruz enter his “not guilty” pleas to two felony charges and a misdemeanor on Tuesday while the interpreter was present.

Interpreter Arlene Perdomo was sworn in Tuesday before De La Cruz’s arraignment and suppression hearing.

At that hearing, defense attorney Allan Lobozzo called Lewiston police detective Roland Godbout to the witness stand and questioned him about his experience with photo lineups and what procedures he followed.

Godbout said he had extensive experience administering photo lineups and used the same computer-assisted technique since 2006. He said he took a photo of Novas De La Cruz and entered into a computer parameters matching the defendant’s gender, age range and race. He also included mug shots of men with “Afro” haircuts.


To the victim, who had been recovering in the emergency room of a Lewiston hospital, Godbout presented a sheet of paper that included Novas De La Cruz and five other men. Godbout also showed the victim a sheet of paper with six other men, some of whom sported “Afro” haircuts. The victim quickly pointed to Novas De La Cruz’s photo and told Godbout that was the man who drove the vehicle and who walked over to him and kicked him in the ribs. Godbout asked the victim whether he was sure about the identification before the victim signed the photo.

Novas De La Cruz, who appeared in court on Tuesday, had since cut his hair short.

Lobozzo argued that two of the men in mug shots on the same piece of paper as the defendant that was presented to the victim had shorter hair than an “Afro” style. Two other mug shots were visibly blurred. Only one other man in the lineup with the defendant resembled the defendant, Lobozzo argued.

“Essentially, that leaves two people. That’s far too small,” a comparison for a photo lineup, he said.

Assistant District Attorney Andrew Matulis countered that Godbout had actually presented the victim with 12 mug shots from which to choose, not six. Godbout told the victim that the suspect’s photo may or may not be among the mug shots. All 11 of the mug shots on the two sheets resembled Novas De La Cruz “to various degrees,” Matulis argued.

Godbout had shown the photo lineup to the victim soon after the victim’s report of the robbery and assault, Matulis said. He said there was no evidence that Godbout had helped steer the victim to the defendant through suggestion that would “give rise to a very substantial likelihood of misidentification . . . There is no such risk here.”


Godbout had administered more than 100 such photo lineups using the same technique, Matulis said.

Kennedy agreed with Matulis, concluding that Godbout had selected mug shots of men with similar traits as Novas De La Cruz, including his age, weight and hairstyle.

Kennedy was satisfied that Godbout had the necessary training to carry out the task of presenting a photo lineup, but was “somewhat” concerned that the detective was unaware of the Police Department’s protocol for administering photo lineups.

Novas De La Cruz was indicted by an Androscoggin County grand jury this month for a second time in the April mugging.

This time, in addition to felony robbery and misdemeanor assault, he was indicted on a count of aggravated assault, a Class B felony, alleging Novas De La Cruz caused serious bodily injury. If convicted on that charge, he faces up to 10 years in prison.

Matulis said after the hearing that his office went back to the grand jury in the case because of the legnth of the victim’s convalescence.


Police said Novas De La Cruz was driving a car April 15 near Victor News variety store on Park Street in Lewiston when he pulled to a stop shortly before 11 p.m.

John Katula, 39, told police that a back-seat passenger jumped out of the car, ran toward him, pulled a gun and pointed it at his face. The man yelled a racial slur and demanded Katula’s backpack, according to a police affidavit.

Katula told police he raised his arm to block the man’s hand, but was struck in the mouth and on the jaw. The man was later identified as a juvenile teen who was arrested, but has not been named because of his age.

Katula told police that Novas De La Cruz had driven the car, stopped, then walked over and kicked him in the ribs.

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