Victor Praxedis is only 23, but without a successful appeal he will never breathe air as a free man again.
Convicted Oct. 10 of the unprovoked, gang-related murder of 28-year-old Juan Diaz Pacheco early April 16, 2011, at Taqueria Tapatia in Santa Ana, Praxedis was sentenced Friday to life in state prison without parole.
Ken Norelli, Praxedis' attorney with the Alternate Defender's Office, asked Orange County Superior Court Judge Daniel Barrett McNerney to consider modifying the sentence to give his client a chance at parole in the future.
But, as City News Service reports, the judge noted, "The defendant brought a knife to a fist fight and stabbed the victim multiple times," adding Pacheco was also "punched in the head" and "kicked while he was down."
Pacheco was dining with two others in the taqueria at 202 S. Bristol St., around 3 a.m. when six men approached their table and asked that old gang chestnut, "Where are you from?" But the answer was not what the six wanted to hear: "We're not from anywhere and we don't gang bang."
That led to the melee that had Pacheco being stabbed multiple times in the chest. Witnesses testified in court that one of the six men hollered out the gang's name in the restaurant and from the car they fled in and that 22-year-old getaway driver Kevin Garcia was seen making a gang sign.
Garcia, Anthony Morales Hernandez, 23, Ulises Mejia, 26, and Eduardo Felipe Ortega, 20, pleaded guilty last month to voluntary manslaughter and street terrorism and admitted a sentencing enhancement for gang activity. Hernandez and Mejia were then sentenced to 13 years in prison, Garcia got 16 years and Ortega earned a 21-year term.
A sixth suspect, Christopher Espino of San Bernardino, is still at-large.
In his victim's impact statement, Pacheco's brother, Jose Diaz, called Praxedis a coward.
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"I can tell you, Victor, my brother was no coward," Diaz said. "He had no fear of you and your punks. ... Prison's not a place you want to be, especially for cowards like you when you'll be surrounded by true gangsters and murderers."
Diaz also expressed frustration at having to view surveillance video during the trial depicting the murder.
"It was very hard for me to be in court and have to look at that video over and over," Diaz said. "But I kept thinking, 'What goes around comes around, and someday you'll pay for every tear drop me and my family shed.'"