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Man enters guilty plea for role in fatal robbery

James Calvin Rooks, 28, of Williamsport, pled guilty to the minor role he played in the Aug. 30, 2016, robbery and homicide that left Christopher Wilkins dead at 505 Park Ave.

The testimony Rooks gave at the homicide trial of Joseph Coleman Jr. was “instrumental,” in convicting him of the murder.

Rooks continued to assist law enforcement after he was moved to Clinton County prison due to safety concerns at Lycoming County prison, said Lee Fry, assistant district attorney

“I believe his testimony in this case was something that was taken heavily into consideration by the jury,” said Fry.

The victim’s family was consulted with before the plea deal was offered, he said.

Coleman was sentenced to life in prison on Feb. 13 in this case and is also serving two more life sentences in state prison for a double homicide on Oct. 31, 2016.

While Coleman rushed into Wilkins’ room and subsequently shot him in the head, Rooks stood in the hallway.

Rooks said he was conscripted into the robbery several hours before the incident.

“I didn’t know what he wanted, not really… he just said he needed me for something,” he said of Coleman.

David Lindsay, defense attorney, said Rooks is slow to fully understand some situations.

“He’s not the quickest to pick up on things, not to say that he didn’t play a role,” he said.

Once word was spread at Lycoming County prison about Rooks role in Coleman’s case, he was moved to Clinton County prison where he continued to be an asset for law enforcement.

However, considering Rooks accepted a mask from Coleman in the form of a cut-off pant leg, the District Attorney’s office accepted a guilty plea for conspiracy to commit robbery.

All remaining counts were dismissed in this case and Rooks was sentenced to 9 to 18 months in county prison, 4 years probation and 50 hours of community service.

Rooks has served 17 months and 9 days and is currently housed in Clinton County prison.

“I’m just sorry for everything that happened,” he said.

President Judge Nancy Butt said it’s rare for prosecutors and the defense attorney to advocate for a lower sentence.

“It’s clear you weren’t going into this knowing what Colman would do, it was just the wrong place at the wrong time,” she said. “You went above and beyond to be willing to work with the commonwealth despite what you were going through at the time.”

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