Gang members plead guilty
R. JONATHAN TULEYA, Staff Writer12/02/2005
WEST CHESTER -- Two of the four defendants involved in a fight that resulted in the stabbing of a rival gang member pleaded guilty to charges on Thursday.
Rigoberto Zavala, 18, of New Garden, and Roberto Garcia Nino, 19, of New Garden, each pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and criminal conspiracy charges before Common Pleas Court Judge Phyllis R. Streitel.
They will be sentenced at a later date.
Both have agreed to testify, if called upon by Assistant District Attorney Andrea Cardamone, against the other co-defendants charged in the April 12 incident.
Adelaido Galan Martinez, 24, of New Garden, and Gonzalo Lopez Castillo, 20, of Kennett Square, appeared in court for pre-trial hearings on Tuesday. They have been scheduled for trial in January.
All four defendants have been identified by police as members of the gang Surenos 13.
The victims in the case reportedly belong to a rival gang, the Vikings. One victim, Armando Cortez, was stabbed three to four times during the fight, according to authorities, and suffered the most serious injuries.
He had to be airlifted to Jennersville Regional Hospital, Cardamone said, where he was treated for a punctured lung and sliced aortic artery.
Cardamone dropped the attempted homicide charge against Lopez Castillo on Tuesday, and Streitel is considering a motion filed by Galan Martinez’s attorney, Edward J. Fabick III, to do the same.
"Someone, not Mr. Martinez, took this fight to another level," Fabick said, "That person is guilty of attempted homicide."
At a preliminary hearing earlier this year, Cortez could not identify his attacker, but a witness testified she saw Galan Martinez lunging toward the victim’s abdomen.
The stabbing occurred behind a Kennett Square mushroom house along East State Street.
Also injured in the fight were Armando’s brother, Martin Cortez, his cousin Jorge Cortez, and Martin Ortiz.
The victims and defendants had "pre-existing disputes," Cardamone said in court, and the "tensions were aggravated by hand signals or gang signs" that were flashed as groups passed one another traveling in separate cars near South and Walnut streets in Kennett Square.
Borough Police Chief Albert McCarthy said, in April, that the incident may have been linked to the March 20, 2004, murder of Fidel Ibarra, of Kennett Square.
Ibarra, 29, reportedly a member of Surenos 13, died after allegedly being stabbed by 21-year-old Jose Manuel Pantoja-Palmerin, believed to be a member of the Vikings.
A jury found Pantoja-Palmerin guilty of first-degree murder and he was sentenced to life in prison by Common Pleas Court Judge William P. Mahon in May.
In October, Mahon granted Pantoja-Palmerin a new trial, stating he had ineffective representation by his attorney.
To contact staff writer R. Jonathan Tuleya, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org