Watsonville gang members sent to prison for 2008 shooting

Jennifer Squires (Mercury News)
01/08/2010
shooting
SANTA CRUZ — A Watsonville gang member who pleaded guilty to shooting at a Maple Street home in 19 months ago and seriously injuring a grandfather who lived there will not be allowed to withdraw his plea and take his case before a jury, a judge ruled Friday.

Instead, Judge Paul Marigonda sentenced Augustin Barrera Guzman, 29, to 26 years, four months in state prison — the term he agreed to when he and co-defendant, Miguel Pena Ramirez, 26, took a plea deal last summer.

Also Friday, Ramirez was sentenced to more than nine years, eight months in prison.

Guzman and Ramirez are accused of shooting at a home on Watsonville’s Maple Street in May 2008. A 54-year-old man was hit in the jaw with a bullet. Police have said he was not the intended target and the shooting was gang-motivated.

Marigonda called the violence “senseless” and “terrible.” He said it not only destroys the victims, but tears apart the community.

The court process dragged on because of state Supreme Court rulings that affected the validity plea agreement and created the possibility Guzman could withdraw his plea.

“I wanted to go to trial,” Guzman told the judge during the hearing, which was briefly interrupted when Guzman became angry with Marigonda’s decision to deny him a trial.

Assistant district attorney Charlie Baum, who was handling the case, said outside of court he was ready to go to trial, but the victim and his family were pleased to have the court process complete.

“The important thing is he’s going away for a long time,” Baum said.

The victim’s wife, Maria Ramos Gallegos, said her husband was a strawberry picker before the shooting, but that his injuries prevent him from working and have created a hardship for her family. The family, which has lived in the home for 21 years, is also still fearful, she wrote in a letter Baum read to the court.

“We were very traumatized because of what happened,” Ramos Gallegos wrote. “Criminals like this do not deserve to be free.”

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