General Crime

* Francisco Mendoza And Margarita Ortega Took Plea Deal For Christmas 2007 Murder Of Valentino Gallegos In East Palo Alto

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A young couple charged in connection with the fatal shooting of a 37-year-old man on Christmas Day 2007 in East Palo Alto were sentenced in court Friday after taking plea deals last month, an assistant district attorney said today.Francisco Javier Mendoza, 24, who had pleaded no contest in San Mateo County Superior Court to voluntary manslaughter and assault with a firearm for the shooting death of Valentino Gallegos, was sentenced to 19 years in prison, Assistant District Attorney Karen Guidotti said.The plea deal, which included admitting to the special allegations of gun use and inflicting great bodily injury, allowed Mendoza to avoid the possible life sentence he faced if convicted of murder, Guidotti said.His girlfriend at the time of the shooting, Margarita Bustos Ortega, also 24, had pleaded no contest to an accessory-to-murder charge and was sentenced to 16 months in prison, Guidotti said. She had been charged with being an accessory to murder prior to the plea deal, and could have been sentenced to up to three years in prison if convicted.Police said they believed Mendoza got into a fight at the Pal Market at 2384 Cooley Ave. in East Palo Alto on Dec. 25 and then left, came back with a handgun and shot two men, including Gallegos.The other victim, Gerardo Hernandez, then 20, was seriously injured, police said.Mendoza was identified as the suspected shooter on Sept. 15, 2008. He was arrested the next day at the intersection of University and Woodland avenues in East Palo Alto, police said.Mendoza had been in custody without bail, and Ortega had remained in custody in lieu of $100,000 bail.

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