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Saturday, 28 March 2009

Norteno street gang,Alexis Aguilar, 19, was sentenced Thursday by Judge Timothy Roberts to consecutive 25-years-to-life sentences

Alexis Aguilar, 19, was sentenced Thursday by Judge Timothy Roberts to consecutive 25-years-to-life sentences for the first-degree murder of 29-year-old Jose Mexicano. He was given an additional six years for using a firearm during the commission of the crime for the benefit of the Norteno street gang. Aguilar was found guilty by a jury last month in the March 4, 2007, slaying of Mexicano in the notorious Acosta Plaza apartment complex. He was 17 at the time of the shooting, but was tried as an adult. It was the second time Aguilar was tried for the murder after an earlier jury deadlocked.
Prosecutor David Rabow acknowledged the length of the sentence for a teenager would attract attention, but argued that it was warranted given the heinous nature of the crime. According to testimony, Mexicano was walking through the complex with his son when they were approached by a man with a hooded sweatshirt pulled over his forehead and mouth. The assailant ordered Mexicano to take off his blue hat and tell his son to leave, then shot Mexicano in the back as he and his son ran in opposite directions. The boy later identified Aguilar as the gunman. "People struggle with the idea of such a heavy sentence for such a young man, but you're not just seeing a young man, you're seeing a young man who killed someone," Rabow said. "I think (the sentence is) appropriate."
Defense attorney Allen Kleinkopf reiterated his contention that Aguilar didn't kill Mexicano, that he did not, and could not, receive a fair trial because of the public enmity against gang members. "Juries hate them," Kleinkopf said. Kleinkopf called the affair "an incredibly prejudiced case," and argued that the judge inappropriately excluded potential testimony about the unreliability of eyewitness accounts while allowing a gang expert to "pontificate" for hours about the evils of gangs, and allow two "snitches" to testify against his client in exchange for reduced sentences.
He said he believed his client was convicted with "too little evidence" and the jury simply wanted "closure."

"This was not an even-handed trial," he said. Aguilar showed no emotion during the sentencing hearing, even when Mexicano's father addressed the court in front of a tearful crowd of family and friends of the victim and the defendant. The victim's father told the court in Spanish that Aguilar had "killed all of us (Mexicano's family)," noting that some of his son's five children watched their father die and that they would never have their father around again. When Aguilar stood to speak, he read from a written statement and apologized to his family and friends for putting them through the ordeal. He told the victim's family he was sorry for their loss, and said he and his family would pray that they found peace. But Aguilar said he has never been a danger to society and never would be, and the state didn't have the "right to take my life." Rabow said he didn't expect Aguilar to admit his guilt, calling that a part of "the persona" of gangs. But he said he hoped the sorrow the victim's family showed would affect Aguilar and "all his gang friends in the courtroom." "I hope they know how much they're hurting their community," he said. "We keep appealing to them as if they care, and I'm just not sure they do."


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