In March 2010, the Mexican-in-Chief wrote that, if the charges against David Anthony Parga were true, it was "time to welcome another group of racist nitwits to our county's collection of skinheads, Holocaust deniers, and queer bashers: Latino gang members intent on terrorizing African-Americans to the point of death." But prosecutors later dropped the hate-crime overtones, not that it spared 28-year-old Parga a long prison stretch in the end: He was sentenced today to 50 years to life in state prison.
A member of the Westside La Habra gang that is tied to the Mexican Mafia, Parga was found guilty of second-degree murder and sentencing enhancements for being the triggerman in the fatal shooting of Leland Washington, an African-American Cal State Fullerton student with no gang affiliations who was attending a Halloween 2006 party in La Habra.
Investigators and prosecutors originally surmised Parga killed Washington because he was black and to further the activities of the Westside gang, which like many Latino gangs in neighboring Los Angeles County has ties to the Mexican Mafia. Those gangs have for years targeted African Americans to drive them out of LA neighborhoods.
But Senior Deputy District Attorney Jim Mendelson would tell jurors Washington was part of a group that had been kicked out of the party and later returned to hang out outside, something that Parga considered disrespectful to his gang. After the party host warned his invited guest Washington and his group to leave, Parga walked up to the student athlete and shot him four times with a .22-caliber pistol. A bullet ripping through Washington's aorta, liver and small intestine caused him to bleed to death internally.
Parga's attorney, Ken Morrison of the Orange County Alternate Defender's Office, said authorities got the wrong man, according to a City News Service report that adds Parga fired Morrison and represented himself at today's sentencing in Santa Ana.
Imposing the 50-year term, Judge Steven Bromberg called Parga a "coward," reports City News Service's courtroom reporter Paul Anderson.
"This was a senseless and a very, very stupid killing of a young man about to graduate college,'' said Bromberg, referring to Washington being a semester away from bachelor degrees in accounting and business administration. "The defendant's conduct was about as cold-blooded as cold-blooded can be, and that's what makes you a coward."
Bromberg also received victim impact statements today.
"Leland was my older brother and my best friend," Willie Washington III told the judge. "He's somebody I still try to emulate today." A talented athlete but "humble" and soft-spoken man, Leland was nicknamed "Cruise Control on the football field," the brother added.
Willie Washington Jr., the victim's father, expressed how much he will miss his son before turning to face Parga and saying, "My mother always said never say never, but I will never forgive you for what you did to my family. I will never forgive you for taking my son away from my family."
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Leland's Williams' sister recalled the grief-stricken cries of her mother the night the family found out her brother was dead: "I will never forget the sounds coming out of my mother's room. I know I sound like a child, but it's not fair."
Parga also got his chance to address the court, saying he felt Leland's brother, father and sister bore "animosity" toward him (you think?). Thus, he directed his comments to Bessie Washington, Leland's mother.
"I know there's nothing I can do to bring (the victim) back and I'm deeply sorry about what happened to him. To you, specifically, I want to say I'm sorry about what happened to your son."