Man’s sentence overturned in Pasadena marijuana deal-turned shotgun slaying

LOS ANGELES >> A state appeals court panel on Tuesday overturned a man’s life prison sentence without the possibility of parole for a marijuana deal that turned violent and left a 21-year-old man dead in Pasadena in 2013.
The three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal found there was insufficient evidence against John Michael Piepoli Jr. to support the jury’s finding of a special circumstance allegation of murder during the commission of a robbery for the Jan. 15, 2013, shotgun murder of 21-year-old Zane Goldstein of Pasadena.
The appellate court panel ordered the case against Piepoli to be sent back to the trial court for re-sentencing, but it was not immediately clear what sentence he would now face.
Piepoli is one of five men convicted of first-degree murder for the fatal shooting of Goldstein, according to Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Stefan Mrakich. He was convicted of murder in November of 2014, and the jury found true the special, sentence-enhancing allegation that the murder was committed during the coarse of a robbery.
The shotgun slaying occurred after the killers lured Goldstein and his brother to Holliston Avenue in Pasadena with a text message stating they wanted to buy marijuana from the brothers, according to Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Stefan Mrakich.
Peter Parra, 39, of Pasadena, Kevin Jessie Cabrera, 29, of North Hollywood, and Raymond Frank Conchas, 27, of Covina were each convicted in February of 2015 of first-degree murder, attempted robbery and conspiracy. The jury also found true the special circumstance of murder during a robbery, as well as the allegations that a shotgun was used in the crime and that the crime was gang-related.
Parra, Cabrera and Conchas each received sentences of life in prison without the possibility of parole, plus another 25 years to life in state prison, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office Ricardo Santiago said at the time. Their appeals are still pending.
The Goldstein brother’s fled in their car when the suspect’s pulled a shotgun on them during their meeting, but the killers chased them and caught up with them nearby at Maple Avenue and Chester Street. Parra fired through the windshield of the Goldstein brothers’ car, mortally wounding Zane Goldstein, who died two days later.
A fifth defendant, 21-year-old Ward Lacey IV of Pasadena,pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in connection with the case in July of 2015 and was sentenced to 15 years in state prison, district attorney’s office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said.
In their 28-page ruling, the justices found that Piepoli “did not plan the criminal enterprise that led to Zane’s death,” had no role in supplying any firearms and was not present at the scene of the attempted robbery or the Jan. 15, 2013, shooting of Zane Goldstein, who died two days later.
“Under the circumstances here, there was insufficient evidence as a matter of law that appellant was a major participant in the robbery,” the justices wrote.
Piepoli repeatedly told a police detective that he thought the plan was merely to scare Goldstein into turning over his marijuana and he wasn’t aware that Goldstein had been shot until he was informed the next morning by police, according to the ruling.
The justices, however, rejected the defense’s contention that Piepoli’s statements to police should have been excluded from his trial.
A fifth man, Ward Lacey IV, was sentenced to 15 years to life in state prison after pleading guilty to second-degree murder.
During Piepoli’s trial, Deputy District Attorney Stefan Mrakich acknowledged that Piepoli was not at the crime scene, but told jurors that he was “equally guilty.”
Piepoli’s trial attorney, William Jacobson, countered that it was “a case that has nothing to do with robbery.”
The defense lawyer told jurors in his closing argument that it was “simply an attempted assassination” stemming from Goldstein’s alleged failure to pay a gang “taxes” for selling marijuana in its territory. He argued that his client was “never part of an agreement to commit a murder” and “never knew what the actual conspiracy was here.”
— By Brian Day and City News Service

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UPDATED: Suspects flee from Whittier DUI checkpoint, ditch sawed-off shotgun

WHITTIER >> Police jailed one man and sought several more late after they fled from a DUI checkpoint, ditching a sawed-off shotgun late Friday, authorities said.
The incident began about 10 p.m. when the suspects pulled through a checkpoint on Lambert Road at Scott Avenue, Whittier police Lt. Bryan Ellis said.
The 1992 Toyota 4Runner initially stopped at the checkpoint, police said. But once officers asked the car to pull over for further screening, the driver sped off, with three to four passengers in the SUV.
Police briefly chased the car north on Scott Avenue, Ellis said. A saw-off shotgun was thrown from the car.
The suspects ditched their car near Scott Avenue and Whittier Boulevard and ran, the lieutenant said.
A witness reported seeing at least one of the fleeing men run into the nearby 99 Cents Only Store, prompting officers to evacuate it and search the building. No suspects were found inside.
But police found one of the suspects hiding under a parked car in a nearby residential area and took him into custody. The other suspects eluded capture
Jessy Robledo, 18, of Whittier was booked for carrying a loaded firearm in public and resisting or obstructing police, Whittier police Lt. Aaron Ruiz said.
According to Los Angeles County booking records, Robledo was being held in lieu of $35,000 bail pending his initial court appearance.

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Olympian’s shotgun returned

This from sportswriter Keith Lair:

Kim Rhode has her shotgun back.

The specially fitted 12-guard Perazzi over-under MX-12 was recovered on Monday by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department and returned to the four-time Olympic medalist on Wednesday morning. After going through the firearm Wednesday night, the 29-year-old Monrovia resident plans on taking it to her specially-built skeet range at the Oak Tree Gun Club in Newhall for testing today.

“How lucky can I be?” Rhode said. “I figured that with as much publicity as we put out, I would never get it back. I figured it would be sawed off, at the bottom of a lake or chucked. As time went on, I figured I had less and less of a chance of getting it back.”

During a routine probation search at the residence of Gregorio Macias, 22, of Perris, officers found the shotgun in its case under his bed. He was arrested for possession of the shotgun.

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