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Judge withdraws suspect's guilty pleas in Watauga robbery

FORT WORTH -- A state district judge took back guilty pleas Thursday afternoon from a suspected gang member who had entered the pleas in January on a Watauga robbery.

Instead, Judge Wayne Salvant ordered a trial within the next month for Jarel Jackson, 20, of Saginaw.

Jackson was scheduled to be sentenced on Thursday after a routine court review of a pre-sentencing report. Jackson pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery and evading arrest on Jan. 14.

But the report, which Salvant called "disturbing," noted that Jackson had told authorities that he was not guilty and had nothing to do with a Feb. 8, 2007, Watauga holdup.

"It's rare to see that, but it was the right decision," Tarrant County Assistant District Attorney Sherri Wagner said of Salvant's withdrawal of the guilty pleas.

Two other teens who police say were members of a Saginaw robbery gang known as The Knockout Boys were sentenced to 10 years in prison in January for the same Watauga robbery. Jackson was accused of being the driver of the getaway car in the 2007 robbery of a Watauga Gamestop that brought the group to light.

Jackson remained free Thursday on $30,000 bail.

GameStop heist: Three masked men, one armed with a handgun, entered a GameStop in the 6200 block of Rufe Snow Drive in Watauga about 9 p.m. Feb. 8. A passer-by noticed the robbery through a window and alerted two police officers who were eating dinner at a nearby restaurant, police have said.

When the officers confronted the men in front of the store, two robbers fled in a car and the third ran away, police said. Christopher Shaw, 19, of Fort Worth was caught nearby, police said.

Over the next few days, Jackson, Zachary Arnold, 18, of Saginaw, an 18-year-old and a 16-year-old were arrested in the robbery. Prosecutors declined to charge the 18-year-old, and the case against the 16-year-old was sent to juvenile court. No information was available on the juvenile.

Other holdups: Based on statements the teens made, detectives came to believe that the group was connected to a string of unsolved armed robberies in at least five other cities around Tarrant County, police said.

Keller police foiled one robbery by teens who Watauga detectives said were part of the group. Fort Worth detectives suspected the group in the robbery of a west-side Wingstop, but they said they were unable to make a case. Other jurisdictions had the same problem.

"Community gang": The group called itself The Knockout Boys and had about 20 members, Watauga police said.

In a jailhouse interview with KXAS/Channel 5 shortly after he was arrested, Shaw admitted robbing the GameStop but denied robbing the Quick Way in Watauga on Jan. 25, though he later pleaded guilty to that robbery, too.

Shaw described The Knockout Boys as a "community gang."

"It wasn't like a big gang," Shaw told Channel 5. "Just a bunch of kids that grew up together."

Sent to prison: In January, Shaw was sentenced to 10 years in prison for the Feb. 8, 2007, Watauga holdup and another Watauga robbery. A few days later, Arnold was sentenced to 10 years in prison for aggravated robbery.

This report includes material from Star-Telegram archives.