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Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Three members of the notorious MS-13 gang pleaded guilty yesterday to stabbing a man and leaving him for dead

09:00 |

Three members of the notorious MS-13 gang pleaded guilty yesterday to stabbing a man and leaving him for dead inside a Hispanic nightclub in Chesterfield County last fall.One of the victim's five stab wounds to the chest punctured his heart in the Oct. 18 attack inside a restroom at Valentino's restaurant on Jefferson Davis Highway. The victim, who they mistakenly believed was their bitter rival, nearly died."The intent was to kill," said Matthew C. Ackley, special prosecutor of the Richmond-metropolitan multijurisdictional grand jury.Authorities described the attack, investigated by Chesterfield police and the Richmond Division of the FBI, as the most significant case of gang violence here involving known members of MS-13. The gang has local contacts but isn't believed to have gained a foothold in the region."The ones that we have identified have been from cliques in Northern Virginia," said Chesterfield Detective Keith Applewhite, a gang expert.The three gang members, natives of El Salvador who had spent time in Northern Virginia and New York, ambushed the victim after they believed the man flashed signs at them denoting he was a member of a rival Hispanic gang known as 18th Street."They are archrivals," Applewhite said of the two gangs. "If they see one another, they'll attack."
Saul Joab "Penguino" Miranda, 27, who was living in Mechanicsville at the time of the attack, was sentenced to serve nine years and four months in prison after pleading guilty to aggravated malicious wounding and criminal street-gang participation. A charge of abduction was withdrawn as part of his plea agreement.
Gilberto Ernesto "Diablo" Gutierrez, 30, living in Chesterfield in October, was sentenced to serve five years in prison after pleading guilty to similar charges. An abduction charge was withdrawn.Antonio "Little Duende" Urrutia-Barrera, 20, living in Reston last fall, pleaded guilty to a single count of aggravated malicious wounding. Abduction and criminal gang-participation charges were withdrawn. He is to be sentenced next week.Urrutia-Barrera recently pleaded guilty in Loudoun County to criminal gang participation, and Ackley said MS-13 commanders sent him to the Richmond area last fall after a shooting in Northern Virginia.In a summary of evidence, Ackley gave this account of the assault:The three defendants were at Valentino's the evening of Oct. 18 when they saw the victim -- identified only as "R.H." in court yesterday -- flash gang signs. Mistakenly believing he was a member of 18th Street, the trio then challenged the victim to come outside. He refused.The defendants then followed him into the restroom, where Miranda and Urrutia-Barrera stabbed the victim repeatedly in the chest, shoulder and hand while Gutierrez held him and blocked the door.The victim was hospitalized for several weeks and still has significant scarring from his wounds and limited use of his right hand, which he no longer can close into a fist. The 26-year-old victim, who lives in South Richmond, denied being a gang member, Ackley said.During a break in yesterday's hearing, Ackley said the defendants may have been pumped up by the Salvadoran rap music playing that evening in the club. They also flashed their gang signs that night, he said.Chesterfield Detective Michael P. Morgott investigated the assault and was assisted by the FBI in linking the defendants to MS-13, a violent gang that originated in Los Angeles in the 1980s by immigrants fleeing El Salvador's civil war.Ackley said an FBI informant infiltrated the gang and provided key information that aided in the defendants' arrest and prosecution. The FBI obtained recorded statements that implicated the trio, Ackley said.At the time of the offense, Miranda and Gutierrez were residing in the U.S. legally as protected refugees from El Salvador, according to their attorneys. Urrutia-Barrera's attorney declined to talk about her client. Miranda and Gutierrez originally lived in Bay Shore, N.Y., and Salisbury, Md., respectively, Ackley said.Through an interpreter, Urrutia-Barrera told Chesterfield Circuit Judge Frederick G. Rockwell III that he has been in the U.S. four or five years and attended high school in Fairfax County.
"This is for the Mara Salvatrucha," a nonfiction narrative about the gang, gives this explanation of the MS-13 name: The initials MS stand for Mara, or "clique," and Salvatrucha, commonly known to mean "street smart." When the Mara Salvatrucha allied themselves with the Mexican Mafia, they adopted "13" as part of their name out of respect, because "M" is the thirteenth letter of the alphabet.

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