Time was when the Orange County District Attorney's office could trot cholos in front of a jury of mostly middle-aged gabachas, claim said cholos produced all sorts of crimes against cops, and win verdict after verdict. But we don't live in that Orange County anymore, Toto.
An Orange County jury returned surprising verdicts yesterday in the trial of three Anaheim gang members accused of trying to purposefully kill cops. Andrew Sanchez, Jordy Martinez and Juan Covarrubias were found not guilty of conspiring to commit murder and not convicted of attempted murder of police when they rolled up on officers in an unmarked Chevy Impala on June 1, 2012 and began firing.
The DA claimed that the three knew who they were shooting at that day; barrio gossip always maintained that the undercovers essentially entrapped them into the gunfight; defense lawyers merely maintained that Sanchez, Martinez, and Covarrubias were firing because they felt threatened. Amazingly, the jury sided more with the three than it did the po-po.
On the morning in question, Anaheim police officers Jared Dewald and Yesenia Escobar circled a gang-claimed neighborhood near Disneyland around 3:30 a.m. in the Impala with tinted windows. Three Anaheim Vatos Lokos (AVLS) gang members blocked them off with their Toyota Corolla.
A tense standoff ensued before Martinez exited and opened fire. The Impala peeled out as their assailants gave chase, emptying both a .38 revolver and 9mm pistol that struck the covert cop car twice on its passenger side. But did the gangsters knowingly try to kill the police because they were police or did they mistake the Impala as that of a rival Anaheim gang?
During closing arguments Monday, prosecutor Gary LoGalbo tried his best to convince the jury the former was the case. "They reasonably should have known!" he emphasized, saying red-and-blue visor lights turned on once the getaway began should've tipped off the cholos. When that didn't work, LoGalbo hammered home the defendants' street gang names, "Sonic" (Covarrubias) "Stranger" (Martinez) and "White Boy" (Sanchez) while laying off the Brunomania.
After two-and-a-half days of deliberations, the jury split on LoGalbo's cop-killer arguments. But Covarrubias, Martinez, and Sanchez didn't get off easy, either. Since there was that pesky fact that they shot at another car and are gang members, the three were convicted of shooting at an occupied vehicle, a felony with a max prison sentence of seven years. Gang enhancements and street terrorism could add at least 20 years (and most likely more) to Folsom or Corcoran or Pelican Bay or wherever they end up.
Sentencing is scheduled for May 1, in Judge Patrick H. Donahue's courtroom. LoGalbo has until then to decide whether he'll file attempted murder of police charges on the three once more. In the meanwhile, kudos to the jury for not being so reflexively pro-cop. Who knows? Maybe your peers just might convict a corrupt cop yet…
Follow Gabriel San Román on Twitter @gsanroman2