DOWNTOWN L.A. — The sentencing of two gang members convicted last month of killing a Santa Monica residents at the Moose Lodge in 2005 was delayed on Friday.
The court granted a request by lawyers for the defendants for a continuation to give them time to motion for a new trial. The new sentencing date is April 24.
The decision to grant the continuation angered family members of victim Jonathan Hernandez. His brothers, mother, aunts and grandmother appeared, all dressed in shirts bearing the victim’s photograph and carrying large framed pictures of the man who, according to his mother, Natalie Preciado, had gotten out of gang life and dreamed of a career as a psychologist to work with at-risk youth.
“My son didn’t get a continuation when they killed him,” Preciado said. “I don’t feel they deserve a right to a continuation.”
The defendants, Eric Nuñez and Jose Mojarro, both 24, face life in prison without parole for two counts each of first degree murder. Both were also convicted of multiple murder special circumstances and allegations that they committed the crime to benefit a criminal street gang.
A third man allegedly involved in the shootings, William Vasquez, is being tried separately because he is a defendant in other murder trials.
The killings took place on March 5, 2005 at a birthday party at the Moose Lodge in Ocean Park. Hector Bonilla and Hernandez, both suspected members of the Santa Monica 13 gang, were killed in an altercation with the three suspects who allegedly belonged to the Alsace clique of the rival 18th Street gang.
The three men were brought in independently. Police took Mojarro into custody July 5, 2005 after he was picked up on a parole violation. Vasquez was apprehended Oct. 6, 2005 in the 500 block of Westlake Street in Los Angeles. Nuñez, who remained at-large the longest, was caught after a violent police chase in January 2006 that ended in a hostage situation. Nobody was hurt.
Their trial began Feb. 5, 2009 and ended with their conviction March 3, 2009, just two days before the four year anniversary of the killings.