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Two gang members sentenced to life for deaths of teenagers

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECalifornia’s bungled $1 billion accounting system “There is not one day that I stop thinking about them. They were part of me,” said the 36-year-old janitor from Canoga Park. “And they took them away from me.” Though the slayings occurred when the defendants were minors, they were tried as adults before Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Richard Kirschner. Saul Rivera, a third member of the Canoga Park Alabama gang who is believed to be the gunman, will be tried separately. “When you have gang members who commit adult crime – that being murder – with complete disregard for human life to the point they are laughing when the mother of the dead victims is speaking (in court), they should be treated like the violent criminals they are, the vicious criminals they are,” Silverman said. The attorneys for Jesse and Richardo Martinez, who are not related, said they plan to appeal for a lesser charge of manslaughter, saying their clients were planning only to fight and didn’t know Rivera was going to pull a gun and start shooting. The tragic saga of gang violence continued Friday, when two teens were sentenced to life in prison for the gang-related murders of two brothers outside a Canoga Park restaurant last year. Jesse Martinez, 18, was sentenced to 100 years to life and Richardo Martinez, 16, received 50 to life for the cold-blooded shootings of 16- and 15-year-old brothers David and Miguel Zapata. “For the families of the victims as well as the families of the defendants, it’s a tragedy,” said Beth Silverman, who prosecuted the case. “Gang crime is a lose-lose situation for everybody involved, as well as society on the whole.” Denise Zapata said she’d repeatedly warned her sons about the perils of joining a street gang. But then one day, David came home and told her he’d been forced to join the Temple Street gang. Miguel soon joined his older brother. “If you get in a high school fight and a guy falls down and hits his head and dies, it is involuntary manslaughter,” said H. Russell Halpern, Richardo’s attorney. Rivera denies being the gunman. Most of the other facts of the Feb. 2, 2005, case, however, are not in dispute. Attorneys for both sides said the confrontation began when the Zapata brothers and some friends stopped at the Wienerschnitzel at Sherman Way and De Soto Avenue. Across the street, members of Canoga Park Alabama spotted the crew and told Richardo to walk by and stare them down. He did, walked back to his friends and then returned with Jesse Martinez and Rivera. “Where you from?” Richardo reportedly asked them. “Temple Street,” they answered, at which point somebody pulled a gun and shot the Zapata brothers. Jesse Martinez and some of the witnesses identified Rivera as the shooter. “Of course, Saul blames Jesse, Jesse blames Saul,” Silverman said. “With these cases, you never really know the truth.” Under state law, Silverman said, it doesn’t matter who pulled the trigger. “They are all equally guilty,” she added. Jesse Martinez was implicated for trying to dispose of the gun; he received 25 years to life for each murder, plus 25 years for a gun enhancement on each. His attorney, Oscar Perez, did not return a call for comment. Richardo’s sentence of 50 years to life was the minimum. brad.greenberg@dailynews.com (818) 713-3634160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

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