DA Tony Rackauckas Gets Half a Wish: Parole Denied for Uciel Murgo, OK'd for Raul Puente Robles

Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas is batting .500 this week in the state prison board's Gang-Banger Parole Homerun Derby.

The paroles of gang members Raul Puente Robles and Uciel Murgo--who traded warm beds in Santa Ana for cold cell bunks at Chuckawalla Valley State Prison in Blythe--were opposed by T-Rack.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations' Board of Parole Hearings agreed to keep one man inside.

That would be Murgo, who was convicted of the unprovoked 1992 shooting-murder of a father leaving Santa Ana High School after playing basketball. Mauro Vergara Meza, 31, was driving away when then-19-year-old Murgo sprayed the car with bullets that also struck three of Meza's passengers, who included two of his brothers. The crime sparked a public outcry for justice.

Murgo, 37, will next be eligible for a parole hearing in 2016.

The parole panel also determined 33-year-old Robles, who received a life sentence in 1995 for the attempted shooting-murder of a rival gang member, is suitable for parole.

Robles was a 16-year-old on probation for carrying a loaded firearm when, in March 1994, he and a couple gang-banging friends drove through a Santa Ana neighborhood hunting for rivals. They found one in 17-year-old Jose Luis Monje, who was riding in another car driving on the same street. Robles pulled out his firearm and shot at Monje while both cars were in motion, hitting Monje's car and putting the street's residents and bystanders at risk.

Robles' car was later pulled over by police, the occupants were arrested and Robles was eventually tried and convicted as an adult of conspiracy to commit a crime, attempted murder, and sentencing enhancements for the personal use of a firearm and committing a crime for the benefit of a criminal street gang. He was sentenced in April 1995 to life in state prison with an additional four years.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Paul Odwald appeared before the parole panel to argue Robles' admission of a gang affiliation, lack of remorse for the attempted murder and continuous criminal infractions demonstrate a serious threat to public safety. "The inmate's parole plans are non-existent," reads an OCDA statement released before the hearing. "He has no letters of support, offers of housing, or offers of employment. He does not have any relationships with people in the community who do not have criminal backgrounds."

Despite this, the parole board decided to cut Robles loose. During his first parole hearing in 2008, he said he'd move back to Mexico, where he was born, if paroled. Hopefully he's become a man of his word.


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