It took a jury less than three hours Friday to convict the man behind the wheel in a 2006 drive-by shooting that killed a young father attending a child's birthday party in south Modesto.
Isidoro Mata, 20, conceivably could face more prison time than the convicted shooter in the case: about 140 years to life in prison for first-degree murder and 10 other felony convictions.
"This was a great, great example of justice being done," Deputy District Attorney Brad Nix said. "It's been three and a half years since this shooting spree and (this case) needed to come to a conclusion."
Defense attorney Lew Wentz said Nix swayed the jury by playing on their "fear and anger" about gangbangers. He said state law allowed "prejudicial" testimony about Mata's criminal history, as well as that of his associates and fellow defendants, to be admissible in court because Mata faced gang charges.
"The state made him into a monster," Wentz said. "Who wouldn't do what (the jury) did?"
Angel Cabanillas was convicted of second-degree murder for firing at Manuel Rayas, 28, of San Francisco, a crime he committed when he was 14 years old. Cabanillas was sentenced to 132 years to life in prison in October.
Cabanillas' defense attorney said the troubled teen was released from juvenile hall — where a psychiatrist prescribed an anti-psychotic medication along with pills for depression and a sleeping disorder — only five days before the shooting spree. He called for help the day after his release because he didn't have any medications, but Cabanillas didn't get the pills until after his arrest, when a psychiatrist diagnosed him with depression and auditory hallucinations.
None of Rayas' family, who live out of the area, was in court Friday.
Cabanillas' older brother, Pedro Julian Cabanillas, was in the back seat during the shooting and pleaded no contest to assault with a firearm and discharging a firearm from a vehicle. He will be sentenced March 19.
All three were minors when they were arrested.
On June 10, 2006, the three grabbed a rifle, piled into a blue Honda and headed into enemy territory.
The trio drove to a neighborhood west of Crows Landing Road — dubbed "Deep South Side Modesto" by residents who affiliate with Norteño gangs — and, according to authorities, began shouting slogans and opened fire on strangers who happened to be outside.
According to witnesses, the trio passed a house on Almaden Way three times, making threats against a crowd of people gathered at a birthday party, including children jumping in an inflatable bounce house.
On the third pass, witnesses said, Cabanillas opened fire as partygoers ran for cover. Rayas was killed. Thirteen minutes later, about 6:10 p.m., the three were spotted near the Seventh Street Bridge and arrested after a short pursuit.
Mata will be back in Stanislaus County Superior Court on April 23 when a judge will set a date for sentencing.
Bee staff writer Merrill Balassone can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2337.