General Crime

Carlos Alberto Cervantes Ordered To Stand Trial For Two Murders In 2001

It should be up to a jury to decide whether a 39-year-old man acted in self-defense when he fatally shot two men in East Oakland 14 years ago, a judge said today.

At the end of a two-day preliminary hearing for Carlos Alberto Cervantes, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Jon Rolefson said one reasonable interpretation of the evidence in the case is that Cervantes was the victim of an armed kidnapping and may have been justified in shooting Patrick Reyes, 23, and Alex Angelo, 24, in the 2300 block of Courtland Avenue at about 7 p.m. on Aug. 7, 2001.

But Rolefson said that interpretation is based on Cervantes’ statement to his brother, Rick Cervantes, shortly after the incident that the reason he shot Reyes and Angelo is that he saw a gun in Reyes’ hand. Rick Cervantes testified at the preliminary hearing about his brother’s statement.

Rolefson said it’s also possible that Carlos Cervantes, who fled to Mexico after the shooting and was arrested until last August, wasn’t telling the truth in his statement to his brother and “there was no gun” in Reyes’ hand.

Rolefson said, “This case has given me a lot to think about” but he said prosecutors produced enough evidence to convince him to order Cervantes to stand trial on two counts of murder and a special circumstance allegation that he committed multiple murders.

“It’s not my job to decide what happened, only if there’s enough evidence to present this case to a jury and let them decide,” Rolefson said at the hearing, which was attended by many family members of Cervantes, Reyes and Angelo.

Cervantes was arrested in Guadalajara last August by the U.S. Marshals Service along with Mexican authorities.

The case was featured on the “America’s Most Wanted” national television show in both 2003 and 2006.

Prosecutors allege that Cervantes shot Reyes and Angelo in the back of the head in a dispute that occurred after Reyes took his car to Cervantes on Aug. 4, 2001, to install a car radio.

Three days later, on Aug. 7, 2001, Reyes returned to pick up his car but found out that Cervantes had been joy riding in it, authorities said.

Reyes then asked Angelo, who was his best friend, to come with him to confront Cervantes and demand his money back. Cervantes agreed to refund the money but said it was at his father’s house, according to prosecutors.

All three men traveled in Reyes’ car to Cervante’s father’s house in the 1200 block of 51st Avenue in Oakland, where Cervantes stole his father’s Glock handgun, authorities said.

When Cervantes got back into Reyes’ car, he said they had to go to another place to get the rest of money and positioned himself in the back seat, according to prosecutors.

While the three men were driving to the second location, Cervantes shot both Reyes and Angelo in the back of the head while the car was in the 2300 block of Courtland Avenue, prosecutors said.

But Cervantes’ lawyer, Robert Mertens, today presented a different version of what happened in the 2001 incident, saying that Cervantes was the victim of a robbery and a kidnapping and alleging that Reyes needed money because he owed money to Cervantes and someone else.

Mertens said Reyes was upset about the car stereo installation work and showed up outside Cervantes’ home to demand money.

The defense lawyer said Cervantes went into the house to get some money but as he was going back outside ” he saw what appeared to be a gun in Reyes’ hand.”

Cervantes went back inside, got his father’s gun and then went outside and gave money to Reyes and Angelo, Mertens said.

Reyes and Angelo then forced Cervantes into the car and drove around for about an hour while Cervantes was trapped in the back seat in a “two against one” situation, Mertens alleged.

The defense lawyer said Cervantes “thought these people had guns and acted on that” by shooting them.

Mertens said the murder charges against Cervantes should be dismissed or at least reduced to the lesser charge of manslaughter.

But prosecutor Autrey James said Cervantes’ statement to his brother that he acted in self-defense was “self-serving” and there’s no evidence that Reyes was armed and pulled out a gun.

Cervantes is scheduled to return to court on May 8 to have a trial date set.

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