A murder trial begins in Santa Ana this morning for the alleged partner in crime of a previously convicted fellow Orange resident who, while navigating the court process from Orange County Jail, was charged with carrying out Mexican Mafia orders. Joseph Baez, 28, faces a special circumstances murder charge and other counts that could send him to state prison for life without the possibility of parole.
A jury already found Robert Reil, 33, of Orange, guilty in March 2012 for the same shooting murder for drugs case, earning a sentence of 50 years to life in prison.
Robert Luis Reil Gets 50 More Years to Engage in Mexican Mafia Mayhem Behind Bars
While in jail, Reil was one of 26 swept up in the Mexican Mafia probe.
Baez is accused of plotting with Reil and Christian Galindo, 27, to steal drugs from a man associated with fellow gang member Amour Villamar, 33, of Orange. Galindo pleaded guilty in November 2011 to manslaughter and gang enhancement charges that got him 12 years and four months in prison. Villamar's trial begins in March on murder, robbery, gang, drug sale and car theft counts.
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She is accused of contacting her drug dealer, Bernal Ezquivel Felix, to set up a meeting in Orange in January 2010. When Felix pulled up around 11 p.m. that night, Baez is accused of shooting him through the window, with the car continuing to move before hitting a parked vehicle. All the suspects/killers left without any drugs in what was Orange County's first reported murder of 2010.
Baez is charged with one felony count of special circumstances murder during the commission of a robbery and for the benefit of a criminal street gang, street terrorism, and sentencing enhancements for being a gang member vicariously discharging a firearm causing death and criminal street gang activity.