Nathan Alfaro
Nathan Alfaro
Courtesy of Brenda Contreras

Defendant Who Fatally Stabbed Nathan Alfaro Convicted of Manslaughter, Not Murder

*Editor's note: The Orange County Register accused us of plagiarizing their story on the same subject, arguing some passages are too similar and some are word-for-word the same. We deny their accusations, and note Jackson has covered the Alfaro killing longer and better than any other reporter, and was either there to describe the passages allegedly plagiarized or pulled from the same sources the Register reporter did. Jackson wouldn't do some bush-league bullshit trickery when it mattered the most. We do thank the Reg for letting us know their concern.

The Santa Ana man who stabbed fellow concertgoer Nathan Alfaro to death during a March 2016 punk show at the club formerly known as Underground DTSA in Downtown Santa Ana was convicted of manslaughter on Monday, not murder. Jurors found that the defendant acted out of anger in the heat of the moment after a second fight broke out between the two men.

Juan Angel Rivera, 23, was convicted of manslaughter and acquitted of the more serious first and second degree murder charges.

The prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney Keith Burke, argued that Rivera intentionally provoked a second confrontation with 23-year-old Nathan Alfaro in order to stab him, while Deputy Public Defender Alison Worthington told jurors that Rivera acted in self-defense.

“No matter who started the fight, Juan Rivera absolutely has a right to defend himself,” Deputy Public Defender Alison Worthington told the jury during closing arguments last Thursday. “This comes down to one moment, when Juan Rivera is on his back on that stage and Nathan Alfaro was on top of him.”

The first altercation between the two broke out when Alfaro was apparently angered at Rivera’s attempts to start a mosh pit in the Santa Ana venue. The two were separated by other friends and audience members, but Rivera once again tried to start a mosh pit and pushed into Alfaro before a second fight ensued.

“He was out of control, he’d been drinking and he knows he’s armed," said Burke during his closing arguments to the jury. "Nathan Alfaro doesn’t know that, but going into that fight, [Rivera] is fully aware that he’s armed with a knife, he knows he’s got the equalizer and Nathan doesn’t.”

During the second fight, Rivera fell or was pushed, ending up on the bottom of a dog pile, Alfaro on top of him. Rivera testified that he stabbed Alfaro because he was being pummeled, couldn’t breathe and testified that he was going to die.

But Burke maintained this fight was not a life or death situation.

“When you actually look at what we can document and what has been documented because of his injuries...the problem for him is if you look by that guy the day those pictures were taken, you could look him right in the face you would have no idea that he’d even been involved in a fight the night before," Burke said. "This doesn’t look like someone who had to stab someone five times in order to survive.”

After the verdict, jurors told the attorneys that they believed that Rivera was acting in the heat of the moment. At least two jurors offered their sympathy to Alfaro’s family.

"It was comforting hearing six jurors telling us they fought hard to get first degree murder," Alfaro's sister Mariah Ortiz wrote in a Facebook post immediately following the verdict. "They said throughout the deliberation, they hung up Nathan's photo of him smiling. They said that Justice was not served and they apologized that they couldn't do more. And that every time they think of Nathan, they'll feel pained for such an unfair outcome."

Rivera’s family said they were glad the jurors decided against a murder conviction.

“He was just defending himself,” Angel Rivera, Juan Rivera’s father told the OC Register. “I know my son is an honest guy.”

Alfaro’s family members consoled one another after the verdict. Brenda Contreras, Alfaro’s aunt, said her family plans to spend the time leading up to Rivera’s sentencing gathering support for Alfaro.

Rivera is currently facing up to 12 years in prison. Had he been convicted of first-degree murder, he could have faced up to 26 years to life in prison.

"Words cannot describe how I'm feeling," Ortiz wrote on her Facebook wall. "Justice has NOT been served. It's not fair. I'm in so much pain. Why?! My brother does not deserve this. This guy took a life... and he's still allowed to live his? This is so wrong."

Newsletters

All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories
    Send:

Newsletters

All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >