Testimony in the death penalty phase of the so-called “Dead Presidents” trial ended Wednesday in San Bernardino Superior Court, according to court sources.
Jurors have been listening to witnesses testify in the penalty phase to decide whether the two defendants – Luis Alonzo Mendoza and Lorenzo Inez Arias – should receive the death penalty or be sentenced to a life in state prison without parole.
Witnesses who testified in this phase have included family members of the victims and defendants, friends and experts. Jurors also heard details about the defendants’ criminal history, personal background and family life while growing up.
Closing arguments from the lawyers are expected next week, and then the case will go to the jury for a second time.
Jurors already convicted Mendoza and Arias earlier this month for their roles in a quadruple homicide on West Vine Street in July 2000.
Authorities say Mendoza, 32, and Arias, 29, were part of a four-man crew that targeted street gang president Johnny Agudo because he had given information to police about another gang member.
Also killed were Agudo’s 27-year-old brother, Gilbert Agudo; Anthony Daniel Luna, 23; and Luna’s half-brother, Marselino Gregory Luna, 19.
Deputy District Attorney Cheryl Kersey has told jurors Mendoza was motivated by his desire to lead the gang, to eliminate an informant, to protect his own neighborhood and to increase his reputation.
Because the Agudo brothers were presidents of two local street gangs, some in law-enforcement circles have dubbed the case “Dead Presidents.”
Another defendant in the case, John Adrian Ramirez, 34, recently took a plea bargain. A fourth man, Froylan Chiprez, 33, remains a fugitive.
The city has its share of prolific gang members.
But another one, who police suspect in three murders on the city’s Westside, is about to be in the spotlight Thursday when he has a preliminary hearing in San Bernardino Superior Court.
Lawyers in the case of Bryant Jesus Urias, 23, announced they were ready for the hearing Tuesday before Judge Michael Dest.
At the preliminary hearing, prosecutors will present some of the evidence against Urias, and a judge will determine whether there is sufficient evidence to hold over the defendant for trial.
Prosecutors charged Urias with the deaths of:
- Eric Selvan, 31, of San Bernardino. He was shot in the head Jan. 22, 2006 inside a detached garage at his home in the 1100 block of West Mill Street. Selvan died two days later, after being taken off life support.
- Yobani Ramirez-Mendez, 16, of San Bernardino. Ramirez-Mendez was shot and killed Oct. 13, 2005 outside a house in the 1100 block of West Congress Street. Two brothers standing with Ramirez-Mendez were also struck by gunfire but survived.
- Antoine Jerome Lee, 36, of Highland. He was shot and killed Feb. 2, 2006 while getting into a car with his friend in the the 1000 block of West Belleview Street, near K Street.
All the shootings occurred within 1-square-mile with a boundary of Mount Vernon Avenue, K Street, Mill Street and Rialto Avenue.
Supervising Deputy District Attorney Victor Stull, who originally reviewed the case, described the slayings as “totally senseless,” in an earlier interview.
Urias is charged with three counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder as well as special allegations. He faces life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted on all charges.
The big news today in San Bernardino Superior Court was the appearance by former Assistant Assessor Adam Aleman who was arraignment on six felony counts that he destroyed evidence and altered official documents.
Aleman had on a really nice gray suit and was accompanied in court by his fiancee Kelly Kuntz. The pair looked really out of place in a courtroom amongst all the working-class folks and defendants.
Aleman has hired a “big gun” to defend him, lawyer Grover Porter. This lawyer has defended a former Adelanto mayor and his wife in an embezzlement case and a former Colton city councilman in a case involving misuing public funds for sex telephone calls and unauthorized hotel stays.
Porter is also currently defending Danial Tidwell, the son of former Sheriff Floyd Tidwell, in a case stemming from the county’s bail bond investigation.
If there’s anyone who knows how to handle high-profile cases, it’s Porter. The man emanates expertise and charm the moment he walks into the courtroom.
We’ll be following the case extensively as it moves through the courts. So feel free to pass along any comments or tips.
Here’s just a glimpse of Thursday’s story today. See the rest of the story in The Sun and on our web site. Enjoy.
By Mike Cruz
SAN BERNARDINO — Sharply dressed in a gray suit, former Assistant Assessor Adam Aleman stood out amongst the working-class families in the courtroom where his arraignment was held Wednesday.
Aleman, sitting next to his fiancee, rose from a wooden fold-up seat at the back of the courtroom when Judge John Martin called the case in San Bernardino Superior Court.
Within minutes, Aleman and his lawyer, Grover Porter, entered not guilty pleas on all charges and allegations and set Sept. 30 as the next court date for a case status hearing.
A man who let himself into his younger brother’s apartment and shot him last July in San Bernardino will be sentenced next month after a jury found him guilty of murder.
Louis Jefferson Crosby is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 21 in San Bernardino Superior Court, according to court records.
Jurors announced the verdict Thursday afternoon.
Avery John Crosby, 26, was sitting in his front room at 11:22 p.m. on July 11, 2007 when his brother stormed in, aimed a gun and fired.
Police responded to the Sunset Ridge apartments at 1700 E. Date Street and found Crosby bleeding inside. He was taken to Loma Linda University Medical Center, where he later died.
The attack was the result of a family dispute that had gone on all day, according to police.
Avery Crosby, whom police said was a Los Angeles gang member on parole, lived with his girlfriend and child in the apartment.
Louis Crosby, 37, was arrested at 7:15 p.m. the next day at a Los Angeles home by the Inland Regional Apprehension Team, a group of local and federal law enforcement personnel who track down dangerous fugitives.
The court postponed a hearing Friday to address a possible motion by Christopher Richard Lanteigne to withdraw from a three-defendant plea bargain that spared his life.
Lanteigne will return Sept. 19 to San Bernardino Superior Court, where the motion will be addressed. If the court rejects Lanteigne’s attempt to withdraw, then he is likely to be sentenced on that day, explained Deputy District Attorney Lewis Cope.
The triple-homicide defendant is seeking to withdraw his first-degree murder plea entered under an agreement that would send him to prison for life. Instead, he wants to go to trial.
If Lanteigne is allowed to withdraw, he could face the death penalty once again, prosecutors said.
The plea bargain was a package deal for Lanteigne and two other defendants in the case, Christopher Weaver and Camille Marie Vredenburg. Lanteigne’s desire to leave the package could affect the outcome for the other two defendants.
Lanteigne is accused of murdering Clayton McCobb, 44, of Ramona; Scott Fisher, 42, of San Bernardino; and Kareem Mohammad Radwan, 26, of Loma Linda in 2004.
In a separate case, defendants Sinque Morrison and Michael Barnett Jr. will return to court on Aug. 8 in the Mynisha Crenshaw gang slaying.
Morrison and Barnett are last remaining defendants – from a total of 12 defendants – whose cases have not been resolved in the Mynisha case. Both men appeared Friday in San Bernardino Superior Court.
Prosecutors have said they are ready to go back to trial for the pair, but at least one of the defense lawyers has sought more time.
Morrison and Barnett are suspected to be part of a group of armed men who fired weapons into a San Bernardino apartment in 2005 while hunting down rival street gang members.
Inside the apartment, Mynisha and her family were having dinner. Mynish was struck once in the chest and died, while her older sister was seriously wounded.
Two other defendants, Harold Phillips and Sidkiba Greenwood, were sentenced July 11 for their roles in the slaying.
Phillips received 94 years and four months to life in prison after being convicted of four charges, including second- degree murder. Greenwood, whom prostecutors said planned the shooting, received 109 years to life for five charges, including first-degree murder.