Contributed by the Santa Cruz County District Attorney's Office:
District Attorney Bob Lee announced that three "hardcore" gang members were sent to prison for lengthy terms today. Alex Leonor, David Murillo and Cesar Nieblas pled no contest to charges alleging active participation in a criminal gang, assault, and a gang enhancement. They were sentenced to the California Department of Corrections for twelve, nine, and eight years respectively.
The charges stemmed from a gang-related assault in the Santa Cruz County Jail which occurred on September 12, 2011. Leonor and Niebles, along with two other gang members Luis Valencia and William Galdamez, assaulted another inmate, Ricky Corpus, with improvised weapons in a simultaneous assault. Corpus sustained a 13 centimeter slash on his neck, directly over the carotid artery, but was able to fight off his attackers.
At that point, Murillo joined the fight, hitting the victim with an improvised sap and later attacking him with a hot water pot. Another gang member named Samuel Duran joined in the fight, but even with all six of the gang members attacking the victim, they were unable to subdue him. Corrections officer responded and ended the fight.
Leonor was sentenced to twelve years, as he was believed to have been the person who inflicted the slash wound to the victim's neck. Murillo was sentenced to nine years, as he had a prior "strike" under the Three Strikes law for a 2010 armed robbery. Nieblas received eight years. In April 2012, William Galdamez and Luis Valencia each pled guilty to the assault and an unrelated robbery for fourteen years in state prison. Samuel Duran, the last gang member to join the fight, also pled separately to the assault and an unrelated high-speed pursuit for four years and eight months in prison.
The reason for the attack is unknown; Corpus is a member of the same criminal street gang as the attackers, and declined to make a statement. Gang investigators suspect the fight was part of a struggle for power within the gang.
The District Attorney's Office was pleased with the outcome. "These are all hard core gang members who have frankly been plaguing our community too long," said Assistant District Attorney Charlie Baum. "They tried to tell the court today they weren't gangsters, but their gang allegiance was evident from their actions in this case and the gang tattoos all over their bodies. In fact, some of them got more gang tattoos after this incident. It's sad to see young men go to prison for long terms, but they've chosen this lifestyle and this is the result."