A group of young adults accused of trying to prevent witnesses from testifying in a San Mateo County murder trial that ended with a deadlocked jury late last year have pleaded not guilty. The six adults — including Josue Orozco, 19, whose murder trial
ended in a mistrial last December — pleaded not guilty Tuesday to various counts including witness intimidation, conspiracy and attempting to induce false testimony, Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said. The defendants, with the exception of Orozco, were arrested in March. Orozco was already in custody. Orozco was 14 at the time of the July 12, 2005, fatal shooting of 21-year-old Francisco Rodriguez, and made headlines for being the youngest person to be charged as an adult with murder in San Mateo County. The case came into the spotlight again in February 2008 when Orozco escaped the
juvenile detention facility where he was being held. Prosecutors allege that Orozco communicated with the other defendants — Alexandro Villar, 19, Arturo Becerra, 19, Edgar Cibrian, 20, Cesar Ponce, 20, and Bianca Aguillon, 19 — via letters and the jail phone during his trial. Wagstaffe said Orozco told the defendants who the prosecution witnesses were and arranged for them to dissuade the witnesses from testifying or threaten them into changing their testimony. Four of the six defendants could face life sentences if convicted, Wagstaffe said. A preliminary hearing date was set for all six defendants for July 20. Orozco is in custody in lieu of $500,000 bail. Bail for Villar, who is believed to have been very involved the alleged crimes, is $350,000. The other defendants are being held on $100,000 bail.
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