A gang member was sentenced today to 76 years to life in state prison for attacking a fellow inmate and gang associate with a jail-issue razor blade at Alameda County Jail in Dublin seven years ago and for other violent crimes. Ronnie Padilla, 30, and co-defendant Ismael Contreras, 36, were both convicted in July 2011 for the Oct. 3, 2006, attack on the gang associate. Padilla and Contreras were additionally convicted of acting to further the interest of a criminal gang, an enhancement clause that increased the length of their prison terms.
Jurors convicted Padilla of nine gang enhancement clauses and Contreras of one such clause. Padilla was also convicted of five counts of assault with a firearm, one count of assault with a deadly weapon and other charges for attacking various people in Oakland on Nov. 12, 2005, and Dec. 31, 2005. The additional convictions against Padilla are shooting at an occupied vehicle, permitting another person to shoot at a vehicle, discharging a firearm with gross negligence, kidnapping for ransom and making a criminal threat.
Padilla was also convicted of possessing a weapon in jail for having a plastic shard, which apparently was fashioned from a fragment from a plastic chair, in his cell in 2008. Contreras previously was sentenced to 30 years to life, but Padilla managed to delay his sentencing for nearly two years by firing his trial attorney, veteran Oakland lawyer Ted Johnson, and hiring a new lawyer, Stephen Avilla, who argued that Padilla should get a new trial because he believes Johnson was incompetent and didn’t provide an adequate defense. But Alameda County Superior Court Judge Larry Goodman denied Padilla’s motion for a new trial today, saying that Johnson is “an experienced and well-qualified trial attorney” who did a good job of representing Padilla.
In sentencing Padilla, Goodman said Padilla and Contreras are both “well-known gang members and shot callers.” Prosecutor Steve Dal Porto said during their trial that Contreras and Padilla attacked the other inmate because they thought the other man was planning to leave their gang, as he had had some gang tattoos removed and had taken other steps to possibly move away from the gang. However, Alameda County Deputy District Attorney Casey Bates, who prosecuted that gang member in an unrelated murder case, said he thinks the attack stemmed from a power struggle within the gang and he does not think the gang member was really trying to quit gang life.
The gang member who was attacked at Santa Rita and another gang colleague were convicted in September 2010 of first-degree murder for the shooting death of 14-year-old Ricardo Cortez Jr. in the 1700 block of 47th Avenue in Oakland on Aug. 21, 2009, in what Bates believed was a case of mistaken identity and a rival gang member was the intended target. Cortez was not a gang member and was simply playing tag with two friends when he was killed, Bates said.
The gang member was sentenced to 27 years to life and his associate was sentenced to 50 years to life. Dal Porto asked that the gang member’s name not be used because his life could be in danger due to his decision to cooperate with prosecutors and testify against Contreras and Padilla. The gang member is being held in administrative segregation in state prison in an attempt to protect him. The prosecutor said Contreras and Padilla and several other gang members attacked the gang member victim during a period when inmates were permitted to leave their cells to socialize. Dal Porto said Contreras slashed an area from the victim’s ear to his throat and Padilla slashed the man’s forehead.
The victim was injured so badly that he thought he would die and gave “a dying declaration” to deputies who responded to the attack but he ultimately recovered from his injuries, Dal Porto said. Dal Porto said Contreras and Padilla used blades that they fashioned from razors that jail officials are required by law to include in the hygiene kits that they give to inmates. The prosecutor said on Nov. 12, 2005, Padilla and an associate who was never found attacked a man they thought was from a rival gang but actually was not a gang member.
Shots were fired at the man, but he was not injured, Dal Porto said. Dal Porto said that on Dec. 31, 2005, Padilla and two other gang members who could not be located attacked four men who were in another car. He said Padilla was mad at one of the victims because he thought the man belonged to a rival gang and the man was dating his niece. Padilla’s group chased the other group and shots were fired at the other car but no one was hit, Dal Porto said.
The victims’ car crashed near Foothill Boulevard and 42nd Avenue in Oakland because they were driving fast and weaving to try to escape Padilla’s group, according to Dal Porto He said three of the victims were able to flee on foot but Padilla and his associates grabbed the fourth victim at gunpoint, blindfolded him and drove him to a secluded area in the Oakland hills. Contreras was not involved in the two Oakland incidents.
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