Right about now three Southern California men probably wish that they'd just gone home after drinking booze at the Angels 9-6 loss to the Boston Red Sox on August 8.
Or, perhaps, James Joseph Kelly, 26, Justin Louis Mullins, 23, and Cheyne Danica Wilson, 25, wish that the final event of their evening together had been getting more drunk and watching strippers wiggle inside Larry Flynt's Hustler Club in Westminster.
Had they made either choice they wouldn't be facing the possibility of prison for committing a ridiculously juvenile but serious crime, according to the Orange County District Attorney's office.
Nope. Kelly (picture 1), Mullins and Wilson (plus a fourth individual who was not charged in the case) left the titty club drunk at about 2 a.m. and drove several blocks away to an intersection where they engaged the driver of another vehicle.
“Go back to Mexico, you wetback!” they shouted at Felipe Alvarado, who was on his way to work as the night-shift janitor at an In-N-Out Burger in Garden Grove, according to police records. Alvarado, an *illegal immigrant, rolled up his windows in fear and drove away when the light turned green. The group followed him to the fast food restaurant parking lot, where the three men viciously assaulted Alvarado while yelling racial slurs, according to prosecutor Scott Steiner, who heads the DA's hate crimes unit.
A worried witness contacted police who captured the men attempting to flee. An illegal handgun was recovered, which prompted police to also charge Wilson (picture 2) with carrying a loaded gun in public. Alvarado collapsed in the street and was rushed to a hospital to treat his injuries.
For the last month, the men thought they faced felony assault charges which carried a maximum of four years in prison. Now, Kelly and Wilson–both of whom are free on bail–face a maximum of eight years if convicted.
It's worst for Mullins of Garden Grove. If convicted, a judge has the power to punish him for up to 12 years because he was already on probation before the In-N-Out Burger incident. In 2006, Mullins (picture 3) pleaded guilty to drunk driving and speeding over 100 mph. In 2004, he was convicted of beating a spouse or co-habitant, false imprisonment and making criminal threats. He remains locked in the Orange County Jail.
At today's hearing at West Court in Little Saigon, all three men claimed they are not guilty. Superior Court Judge Stephanie George ordered an October 30 preliminary hearing.
After the hearing, Wilson (of Hesperia) and Kelly (of California City) huddled together and chatted about their belief they won't serve any prison time even if convicted. They'd come to court wearing black suits, conservative haircuts and sober faces.
It is a felony in California to assault another person based on a victim's perceived race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, or disability. Those thinking about testing the DA's office on the subject should think again. Steiner has proven he will aggressively prosecute hate crimes.
In June, Cal State Fullerton frat boy Gaston Alejandro Gastelum pleaded guilty for beating up two tiny, young women he thought were lesbians. Gastelum originally claimed the girls assaulted him but changed his story to avoid a trial and a possible three-year prison sentence. He got 30 days in jail plus community service.
Earlier this year, 23-year-old Ronald Lee Bray of Costa Mesa got 32 months in prison for beating a black man in a wheelchair while he barked racial slurs.
(After this story was published a government official said that Alvarado's current immigration status is unclear.)
R. Scott Moxley has won Journalist of the Year honors at the Los Angeles Press Club; been named Distinguished Journalist of the Year by the LA Society of Professional Journalists; and hailed by two New York Times Magazine writers for his “herculean job” exposing Southern California law enforcement corruption.