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Man sentenced in gang death

Defendant, 19, was neither shooter nor driver. He's warned to make the most of his prison time.

September 21, 2006|By Robert S. Hong

PASADENA — A participant in the fatal 2004 drive-by shooting of a 16-year-old in Glendale was sentenced to 18 years in prison on Wednesday.

Richard Garcia, 19 of Echo Park, pleaded no contest in Pasadena Superior Court to voluntary manslaughter and attempted voluntary manslaughter charges and for having affiliation with a violent gang.

"It was an appropriate sentence based on [Garcia's] level of participation in this very serious crime," said Dep. District Attorney Martin Bean, who prosecuted the case.

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Garcia — who was 17 at the time of the incident — was neither the shooter or driver in the Dec. 30 shooting, but was a passenger in the car when the shooting occurred, Glendale Police Officer John Balian said.

Sixteen-year-old Carlos Pinon, of Glendale, was killed and Juan Beltran, also 16 of Glendale, was injured during the drive-by shooting.

The two boys were allegedly members of a rival Los Angeles street gang.

"[This is a] sad case," presiding Judge Judson Morris told Garcia.

"You are a young man and you are going to spend a lot of time in prison. How sad [the case] remains depends on you."

Morris told Garcia that he had the choice to make the most of his prison time and emerge as a productive citizen, or to become a more hardened criminal.

Garcia — who has already served nearly two years of his sentence — will likely serve at least 13 to 14 more years, his attorney Daniel Nardoni said.

"[Garcia] made the smart move [in accepting a plea-bargain]," he said.

"I would have preferred to see a lower number."

If Garcia had chosen to go to trial instead of accepting a plea, he likely could have faced life without possibility of parole, Nardoni said.

"Even though it is a long sentence, his life is not over," he said.

This case was an example of repercussions that come with gang violence, Balian said.

"Even being a passenger of a homicide-involved vehicle … he's going to spend 18 years of his young adult life in prison," Balian said. "We want to tell people out there that it's not worth it."

Before sentencing, the judge offered some final words to Garcia.

"A good person is defined as someone who gains wisdom from hard times," he said.

The other defendants in the shooting, Carlos Palma and Julian Martinez, both also of Echo Park, will go to trial on Oct. 11.


  • ROBERT S. HONG covers public safety and the courts. He may be reached at (818) 637-3235.

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