Three confessed gang members pleaded “no contest” Tuesday and were sentenced to prison on charges relating to the Jan. 8 attack on a liquor store clerk in Newhall.
A plea of no contest is identical to a guilty plea except that it can’t be considered an admission of guilt in a subsequent civil trial.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office offered the plea bargain to the three as a group. All three had to accept the deal or the case would have gone to trial and the assailants would have faced up to 30 years behind bars.
Eduardo Salgado, 18, pleaded no-contest in San Fernando Superior Court to assault with a deadly weapon. He was sentenced to 7 years.
Pedro Bernabe and Oscar Jimenez, both 19, pleaded no-contest to second degree burglary. Bernabe was sentenced to 6 years, while Jimenez got 5 years 4 months.
All three suspects admitted to being members of a criminal gang, which lengthened their sentences.
The incident unfolded on a Sunday night around 8:30 p.m. when the three men and a 17-year-old accomplice entered Dooly’s Liquor at Railroad Avenue and 14th Street, immediately next door to SCVTV. The suspects stole some beer and fled; the theft resulted in the burglary charge against Bernabe and Jimenez.
About an hour later, at 9:35 p.m., the group returned and demanded Dooly’s surveillance tape, which would have shown them stealing the beer.
They didn’t get the tape. (Dooly’s uses a tapeless surveillance system.) The store clerk resisted and a fight ensued in which Salgado slashed the clerk’s arm with a knife, leaving a gaping wound that required numerous stitches.
Santa Clarita Valley sheriff’s deputies swooped in and quickly apprehended three of the suspects: Salgado, Jimenez and the 17-year-old boy. Deputies identified Bernabe as the fourth suspect. On Jan. 12 he walked into the SCV Sheriff’s Station and surrendered.
For whatever reason, the case drew national and even international attention when the Associated Press picked up the story.