One of two alleged MS-13 gang members who went on trial in federal court in San Francisco last month has pleaded guilty to seven charges, including possessing the gun used in a shooting murder near the Daly City BART station in 2009.
Luis Herrera, 20, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge William Alsup on Tuesday to charges that also included racketeering conspiracy and murder conspiracy, according to court records. He will be sentenced on Jan. 24 and faces a penalty of up to life in prison.
The charges to which he pleaded include using and possessing a gun used in the murder of Moises Frias, 21, near the Daly City BART station on Feb. 19, 2009.
But Herrera did not plead guilty to another count in which he had been charged with actually murdering Frias in aid of racketeering.
Frias was a college student who worked as a technician for the California Public Utilities Commission.
Prosecutors alleged that Herrera and a co-defendant, Danilo Velasquez, went to the BART station that evening to hunt for members of the rival Norteno gang and mistakenly thought that Frias and three companions were Nortenos.
The shooting happened shortly after 7 p.m. on John Daly Boulevard near Junipero Serra Boulevard, about a block and a half from the BART station. Two of Frias’ companions were wounded.
Prosecutors said the gun used in the shootings was found in Herrera’s car when he was arrested two weeks later.
Herrera and Velasquez went on trial before a jury in Alsup’s court on Oct. 25. The trial continued on Wednesday with Velasquez as the sole remaining defendant, and is due to resume on Monday.
Herrera’s defense attorney, Josh Cohen, and a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office were not immediately available for comment.
The MS-13 gang, also known as Mara Salvatrucha, is an international street gang with roots in El Salvador and Southern California.
Prosecutors allege the gang engaged in murders, assaults, drug dealing, theft and extortion and that members increase their gang stature by hunting and killing rival gang members.
Herrera, who was born in El Salvador, and Velasquez, born in Guatemala, were alleged to be members of an MS-13 branch based in the area of 20th and Mission streets in San Francisco.
The two men are among 34 alleged gang members charged in several successive versions of a racketeering conspiracy indictment issued by a federal grand jury in San Francisco in 2008 and 2009.
Seven other defendants were tried in a five-month trial in Alsup’s court that began in April and ended in August with convictions of six men on most charges. One was acquitted of all charges.
Most of the other gang members and associates named in the indictments have pleaded guilty to various charges.
The charges to which Herrera pleaded guilty include conspiring to racketeer, or engage in organized crime; conspiring to commit murder in aid of racketeering; using and possessing a gun used in Frias’s murder; three counts of attempting to murder Frias’ companions; and using and possessing the gun used in the three attempted murders.
Velasquez is charged with two counts of conspiring to racketeer and conspiring to commit murder in aid of racketeering.
Julia Cheever, Bay City News