Trial of three men begins to wind down

Prosecutors wrap up their cases against trio accused of killing 17-year-old with baseball bats.

July 13, 2007|By Jason Wells

DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES — The three men charged with beating a Glendale boy to death in 2004 sat side-by-side Thursday as their lawyers attempted to defend them against potentially damning videotaped confessions.

Glendale residents Fredy Gudiel, Pedro Pena and William Torres were arrested about two weeks after they allegedly beat 17-year-old William Maldonado on June 26, 2004, with two baseball bats as he rode his bicycle down the 800 block of South Columbus Avenue.

Maldonado died of his injuries two days later in the hospital.

The three men are being tried jointly in Los Angeles County Superior Court and face first-degree murder charges with the enhancement that the crime benefited a street gang.


Each of the defense lawyers conceded in court Thursday that their clients were members of an established Glendale gang.

Maldonado's sister sat almost directly behind the three men in what was an otherwise empty courtroom Thursday as prosecutors prepared to wrap up their case — the bulk of which centered around video footage of the men as they talked to investigators after they were arrested.

Prosecutors allege the three men — along with a fourth passenger who testified against them on Wednesday — drove into a rival gang's territory that evening looking to "hit up" a rival gang member to boost their standing in their own gang.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers seemed to agree that the three men stopped their car and approached Maldonado after he apparently claimed to be a member of the rival gang.

But they differ greatly on what they think happened after that.

Prosecutors contend the men beat Maldonado with two baseball bats, leaving him bloodied on the ground, to gain status within their own gang. Defense lawyers suggested in cross-examination that they may have been defending themselves against a perceived weapon as the boy reached into his backpack.

Either way, Phillip Peng, who is representing Pena, claimed this was not a story of one side overpowering the other in terms of overall gang strength.

"In fact, the street runs both ways," he said.

But a videotaped interview between his client and a Glendale Police investigator suggested otherwise.

Pena, who was 22 at the time, started out by denying knowledge of the beating, telling the officer that all he knew was that "something terrible happened to some guy."

But under the impending threat of a lie detector test, he eventually admitted to striking Maldonado several times on in the shoulder and leg, and remained vague on what sort of contact was made with his head.

The admission wore Pena into tears.

"I don't eat, I don't sleep — nothing," he said, holding back tears.

"Do you really feel bad about what you've done?" the investigator asked.

"Of course I do," Pena said.

Pena sat stone-faced Thursday as he watched himself on screen, and as jurors diligently followed the transcript.

The prosecution is expected to wrap its case today.

  • JASON WELLS covers public safety and the courts. He may be reached at (818) 637-3232 or by e-mail at

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