A Hopkins County Jury convicted a 29-year-old alleged gang member of unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon, and sentenced him to the maximum allowable punishment on the charge Tuesday, local officials reported.
The trial of Mario Ladane Cozine, who listed a Commerce address at the time of his arrest in Hopkins County in 2018, began with jury selection and testimony Monday. The trial continued with closing arguments Tuesday morning, then the sentencing phase of the trial which ended with the jury sentencing Cozine Tuesday to 20 years in prison, the maximum punishment allowable for the offense.
The firearm charge stems from a State Highway 11 traffic stop by Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Rebekah Saathoff on Feb. 16, 2018. Cozine was reportedly the passenger in the vehicle. Saathoff, in 2018 arrest reports, reported a strong marijuana odor was detectable in the car. During a probable cause search, a loaded .45-caliber handgun was allegedly located under Cozine’s seat. After learning he was a convicted felon, he was arrested for being in possession of the firearm, Saathoff noted on arrest reports.
The maximum sentence for unlawful possession of a firearm was reportedly sought by prosecutors based on the defendant’s criminal history.
Prosecutors reportedly calling several witnesses during the sentencing phase of the trial to testify regarding “the defendant’s extensive, violent criminal history.”
“Mr. Cozine has an extensive criminal history that includes a trip to
the penitentiary for aggravated robbery, engaging in organized criminal
activity, and failure to stop and render aid. He also has other prior
convictions for offenses including failure to identify and unlawful carrying
of a weapon. Mr. Cozine is also currently on deferred adjudication probation out of Hunt County for the offense of assault family violence strangulation committed against one of the mothers of one of his children,” according to Assistant District Attorney Matt Harris.
Cozine bonded out of Hopkins County jail on Feb. 17, 2018, according to Hopkins County jail reports. Afterward, he allegedly went on the run from authorities, and “ended up in Mexico for a while until he was arrested by a DPS Trooper in Val Verde County in January of 2019,” the ADA alleged. The 29-year-old defendant allegedly assaulted the Val Verde County trooper as he was attempting to arrest him, according to the assistant district attorney.
Cozine has been in custody since January of 2019, serving a sentence for assaulting that trooper, according to Harris. Cozine was been in Hopkins County jail since Oct. 25, 2019, according to Hopkins County jail reports.
Several members of the Hopkins County Jail staff also testified to Cozine’s aggressive behavior while in custody awaiting trial on the unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon charge, the ADA reported.
“We also called a gang expert from the Fort Worth Police Department, who was able to review photographs of the defendant’s tattoos, a jail telephone call made by the defendant, and the defendant’s clothing at the time of his arrest to prove that the defendant is a member of the Bloods criminal street gang,” Harris stated.
The jury sentenced Mr. Cozine to 20 years in the Institutional Division of Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the maximum sentence allowable under the law.
“The District Attorney’s Office is thankful that once again a Hopkins
County Jury has chosen to uphold the rule of law in this community. Thanks
to them, this defendant won’t have the opportunity to victimize anybody else for a long time,” Harris stated.