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The People v. Rudy Sanchez Gonzales et al

February 10, 2012


(Super. Ct. No. 07124)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Raye , P. J.

P. v. Gonzales



California Rules of Court, rule 8.1115(a), prohibits courts and parties from citing or relying on opinions not certified for publication or ordered published, except as specified by rule 8.1115(b). This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

In the course of a quarrel fueled by a potent mix of drugs, guns, and money, defendant Lorenzo Alberto Godoy shot Raul Ramos several times, and defendant Rudy Sanchez Gonzales threatened Antonio Paniagua with a knife. An information charged defendants with attempted premeditated murder, assault with an automatic firearm, residential robbery, burglary, and false imprisonment. The information charged Gonzales with possession of a firearm by a person who had previously been convicted of a serious felony. The jury found defendants guilty on all charges except robbery and burglary. The court sentenced defendant Gonzales to 146 years to life and defendant Godoy to 27 years four months, plus 32 years to life, in prison.

Defendant Gonzales appeals, contending the court erred in sentencing him for both assault with a firearm and attempted murder, evidence of gang membership should have been excluded, and admission of written communication between Gonzales and other inmates violated his constitutional rights and forced him to testify at trial. Defendant Godoy appeals, joining Gonzales in arguing that the trial court improperly sentenced him for both assault with a firearm and attempted murder, and that the court erred in admitting evidence of gang membership. We shall affirm the judgments.


Victim Raul Ramos, who sold drugs, began buying methamphetamine from defendant Godoy in 2006. Godoy agreed to supply drugs to Ramos, who would in turn sell the drugs and repay Godoy. Haplessly, Ramos fell behind on his payments and owed Godoy $4,000. Godoy, in turn, owed his supplier, "Rick."

Godoy and Rick threatened to shoot Ramos if he failed to pay off the debt. Ramos agreed to pay Godoy $2,000 and turned over the pink slip to his truck as collateral for the balance of the debt.

Ramos met defendant Gonzales twice briefly. At their first meeting, Gonzales told Ramos not to talk to his son. At the second, Ramos had gone to pick up drugs from Gonzales's aunt's home and Gonzales, who had a knife, challenged Ramos to a fight.

In December 2005 Antonio Paniagua moved in with Ramos to escape from drugs and gangs; Paniagua had been affiliated with the Sureno gang from Southern California. Previously, Paniagua had stayed with Gonzales. Ramos referred to Paniagua as his "son."

The Incident

One evening in January 2007, Ramos was in his apartment with Paniagua and Paniagua's girlfriend, Amanda Ickes.*fn1 The trio was taking drugs. Gonzales's niece, Esperanza Ybarra, was in the kitchen and Ramos's wife was in the bedroom.

Ramos's neighbor, Lucero Rangl, saw six or seven strange men outside the apartments. Two men stood behind a tree on the sidewalk, two others stood at the end of the street behind two cars, and two more stood in front of Ramos's apartment. There was another man "just kind of roaming around." One man went to the back of the building just before Rangl heard gunshots.

Paniagua, who had been smoking methamphetamine, stood on the apartment's patio as Godoy and Gonzales walked up. Godoy put a gun to Paniagua's head and they told him to go inside. Paniagua went inside looking frightened, sat on the couch, and said people were after him. Shortly afterward, Gonzales and Godoy entered the apartment. Gonzales wore a black trench coat; Godoy wore a hooded sweatshirt.

Gonzales rushed at Paniagua, pulled out a knife, and threatened him. As Ramos stood up, Gonzales told everyone to sit down. Gonzales asked Ramos, "and by the way where is my money, fool." Gonzales also told Godoy to calm down. One of the intruders took Paniagua's blue belt, which he wore to show he belonged to the Sureno gang.

Godoy told Ramos that Ramos owed him $2,000. Ramos said, "no one tells me to sit down in my own house." Godoy picked up Ramos's police scanner; Ramos told him to put the scanner back. Ramos grabbed Godoy's hand, and Godoy shot him once in the abdomen.

After Godoy shot him, Ramos heard his wife cry out. As Ramos went toward the bedroom, Godoy shot him multiple times. Ramos asked Godoy, "[I]s that all you got?" and stated "[Y]ou're not man enough to kill me."

As he left, Godoy pointed the gun at Ickes' head. Ickes believed this was a warning to her to be silent. Paniagua dialed 911 and handed the phone to Ickes. During the altercation, Paniagua's cell phone and Ramos's scanner disappeared.

After the shooting, one of the men Lucero Rangl had seen earlier ran past. He looked at Rangl and made a gesture of zipping his mouth shut. Rangl testified she was frightened for her family. The day after the shooting, Rangl identified Godoy as a man she had seen outside the apartment the previous afternoon.

The Aftermath

Officers arrived at the apartment shortly after the 911 call. Ramos told officers Godoy had shot him.

Ramos was transferred to the hospital, where he was treated for gunshot wounds to his abdomen. His injuries included damage to his liver, right kidney, and intestines. Doctors removed one bullet from his abdomen during a three-hour surgery.

An investigator with the district attorney's office interviewed Ramos during his hospital stay. According to Ramos, Gonzales told him they needed to talk and told him to sit down. Godoy came in and they talked about Ramos's debt to Rick. Ramos said he had paid the debt and Godoy owed the rest to Rick. Ramos asked Gonzales what he wanted to do about it. Gonzales looked at Godoy and nodded his head, and Godoy pulled out a handgun from his coat and shot Ramos.*fn2

Following his release from the hospital, Ramos entered federal protective custody. In 2000 Ramos had worked as a federal informant. He again worked with authorities in 2007 for money and to obtain favorable treatment for his son. During the trial, Ramos was in a safe house and had been off drugs for over a year.

Paniagua, arrested for a probation violation after the incident, spoke with police detectives. In describing the shooting, Paniagua stated Godoy picked up Ramos's scanner, Ramos protested, and Godoy shot Ramos in the upper thigh. Several shots followed. During the shooting, Gonzales held a knife, flicked open.

Paniagua entered a witness protection program. He was arrested for domestic violence against Ickes a month after the shooting, sentenced to prison, and released in 2008.

Paniagua feared retaliation if he testified. When Paniagua took the stand for his preliminary hearing testimony, Gonzales said in Spanish, "Remember your children."

Subsequent Searches

Two days after the shooting, officers searched Gonzales's house. They discovered a .25 caliber, semiautomatic pistol hidden under a mattress. The gun was loaded with two cartridges. In Gonzales's bedroom they found Paniagua's cell phone and a loaded 12-gauge shotgun. Officers also uncovered gang paraphernalia, including a photo of Gonzales garbed in blue and holding a shotgun draped in a blue bandana.

Officers searched Godoy's apartment shortly after the shooting. They located shells for a 12-gauge shotgun and several .25-caliber bullets. They found the stock to a shotgun that matched a shotgun found at Gonzales's home. Officers did not find any guns. They found gang paraphernalia: photos of Godoy wearing gang clothing and making gang signs.

Gang Testimony

Gonzales spoke with a district attorney's investigator about potential prosecution witnesses. He said with a smile that "it would be a lot of people to eliminate" and "that's kind of hard to do." Gonzales also stated that the shooting was more personal than gang related.

The investigator testified that Gonzales "had gone through steps" to drop out of the Mexican Mafia and was believed to be writing a book about his experiences. Gonzales was the intended victim of a jailhouse attack because of his dropping out of the gang and writing a book.

During examination by the prosecution, the investigator explained the Mexican Mafia is a gang operating in prisons. Surenos are "soldiers" for the Mexican Mafia. The investigator testified not every Sureno group is connected to the Mexican Mafia, and stated the plot against Gonzales involved Surenos who were not part of a local group.

Physical Evidence

The bullet removed from Ramos was from the .25-caliber pistol recovered from under Gonzales's mattress. The pistol could hold eight cartridges in the magazine and one in the firing chamber. The four cartridge cases recovered from the crime scene were consistent with tests from the pistol, but they did not show individual characteristics sufficient to make a positive identification. The unfired cartridges and cartridge cases found in Godoy's apartment sported an incomplete head stamp indicating the manufacturer of the ammunition. Gunshot residue was found on Godoy's hands.

The Tale of the Kites

Leandro Escarsega, a county jail inmate, served time in 2007 for possession of methamphetamine for sale. He knew Godoy as a friend and was associated with the Surenos. After speaking with Ramos's son, Raul Ramos, Jr., Escarsega decided Paniagua, a friend, was in danger because of the shooting. Escarsega took action, contacting Gonzales and telling him if he needed a favor Escarsega would help him. To convince Gonzales of his sincerity, Escarsega told him Paniagua owed him money.

As Escarsega and his cell mate cleaned outside the cells, Gonzales passed a secret note, in jail parlance a "kite," under his cell door. Escarsega's cell mate picked up the note and gave it to Escarsega once they returned to their cell. The kite, addressed to "Leo 410" (Escarsega's cell number), told him to find some people to say that Paniagua had a gun and was going to shoot Gonzales. Under Gonzales's scenario, the same gun shot Ramos. The kite also said "[Paniagua] is a rat anyways." Escarsega told Detective DeLao about the kite and the detective made a copy.

Escarsega received a second kite from Gonzales, addressed to "Squeaky," a friend of Escarsega. The kite contained a jail cell number and three dots underlined twice. The message asked Squeaky to testify that he put the gun under Gonzales's mattress. The kite also said, "[I]f I get found guilty I'm going to get ...

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