MERCED — An idiotic crime, pulled off by a 15-year-old boy to please his fellow gang members: That's how a prosecutor described the case of Jonathan Eduardo Medina, who will serve 31 years in state prison after pleading no contest to fatally shooting 34-year-old Antonio Noia.
A plea agreement was reached in Medina's case Monday and he'll be formally sentenced by Judge John Kirihara on Aug. 23.
Medina was the triggerman and one of four people accused in Noia's death, which happened outside an Atwater apartment the evening of Feb. 16, 2008. Medina, now 18, was 15 at the time of the killing.
He pleaded to felony counts of voluntary manslaughter and personal use of a firearm. The manslaughter charge also had an enhancement for committing the crime for the benefit of a criminal street gang.
Deputy District Attorney David Elgin said the defendant's age at the time of the crime was a key factor in making the plea agreement.
"We're holding him accountable as an adult, but he was still 15 years old," Elgin said.
Medina shot the victim at the direction of older members of his gang, Elgin said. The gang members instructed him to change into dark clothes and directed him to Noia's whereabouts.
Atwater police responded to the scene at 7:48 p.m. in the 2800 block of Determine Drive, finding Noia's body slumped over the rear seat of a blue Ford Bronco.
Elgin said the case exemplifies gang stupidity.
"We have one man whose life has ended, and an 18-year-old who will be in prison until his 40s," Elgin said. "And (six) kids are going to grow up without a father, all because of gang idiocy."
Tom Pfeiff, Medina's attorney, said his client had been charged with murder and could have faced life in prison — if the case had gone to trial. The plea "is the best outcome possible under all of the circumstances, considering the facts of the case," Pfeiff said.
The co-defendants in the case, Alejandro Mena Cervantes, 23, Reggie Steve Gonzales, 20, and Juan Victor Castro, 23, all pleaded no contest to accessory charges in 2008. They were each sentenced to five years in state prison.
Victim wasn't in gang
After the homicide was reported, the victim's family maintained he wasn't a gang member. Police said there was no indication Noia had been involved with gangs before his death, although he had a tattoo commonly associated with gangs.
Noia's family members said he was driving trucks for a local concrete company at the time of his death.
Medina has written an apology letter to the victim's family, acknowledging he'd made a mistake when he joined a gang and how it was stupid to kill someone "just for a color."
Medina, who said he was "jumped into" (initiated) the gang eight months before the shooting, must serve at least 85 percent of his sentence. He'll be about 42 years old when he's eligible for parole.