A Stanislaus County jury found three Modesto men guilty of second-degree murder Thursday for what police called "a senseless act of violence" against a man who was eating at a south Modesto taco stand.
Steven Anthony Pack, 20, José Barajas, 21, and Nicolas Castaneda, 21, dodged the more serious charge of first-degree murder.
Also, Judge Timothy Salter declared a mistrial on several felony charges and enhancements after jurors could not reach a verdict.
After more than 2½ months of testimony, some jurors cried as the verdicts were read.
"We're happy," said Deputy District Attorney Shawn Bessey. "It's an emotional ordeal for everyone involved."
Attorney Bill Miller, who represents Castaneda, said he was disappointed in the verdict. He said his client was suspected of being the getaway driver.
"He was the one trying to get them away from the fight," Miller said. "I thought the surveillance tape showed that the alleged victims were in fact the aggressors."
According to sheriff's officials, Kevin Argueta was at a taco truck in the 1200 block of Crows Landing Road with friends just before 2 a.m. Aug. 19, 2007.
Several men approached Argueta, 22, and his friends and asked them to which gang they belonged. When they said they were not gang members, an argument started and one of the attackers started shooting.
The district attorney's office has until Feb. 25 to decide whether to retry the three men on charges declared to be a mistrial.
Pack and Castaneda face 15 years to life in prison. Barajas, who was convicted of being the shooter, faces 40 years to life in prison.
Bee staff writer Merrill Balassone can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2337.