Ex-Ban­dido gets pro­ba­tion for role in killing

Judge gives mem­ber who be­came wit­ness a lesser sen­tence

San Antonio Express-News - - METRO - By Guillermo Con­tr­eras gcon­tr­eras@ex­press-news.net | Twit­ter: @gman­in­fed­land

A for­mer mem­ber of the Ban­di­dos in San An­to­nio was sen­tenced to five years’ pro­ba­tion Fri­day for his role in the club’s rack­e­teer­ing con­spir­acy, in­clud­ing help­ing to plan a mur­der 16 years ago.

“This may be, and I think it is, the first time that I ever awarded a pro­bated sen­tence to some­one en­gaged in ac­tiv­ity lead­ing up to a mur­der,” U.S. Dis­trict Judge David Ezra said af­ter he sen­tenced An­drew Gomez, 52.

Gomez pleaded guilty in 2016 to con­spir­acy to com­mit mur­der in aid of rack­e­teer­ing for his role in the death of Robert Lara, who was lured to a rest area in Jan­uary 2002 south of San An­to­nio, where other Ban­di­dos shot him over the killing of Ban­dido Javier Ne­grete at a San An­to­nio pool hall in late 2001.

Gomez faced a max­i­mum of 10 years in prison, but prose­cu­tors filed a mo­tion ask­ing Ezra for le­niency.

It was that rec­om­men­da­tion that helped per­suade Ezra to im­pose the lesser sen­tence. He said he also was swayed be­cause Gomez wasn’t the shooter and he’s turn­ing his life around.

“I had to get over some of my own views in or­der to come to the con­clu­sion that it was the right thing to do,” the judge said.

As­sis­tant U.S. At­tor­ney Eric Fuchs said Gomez was im­por­tant in solv­ing the cold case and gave in­ves­ti­ga­tors a first­hand ac­count of the drug-deal­ing and other crimes in­volv­ing the Ban­di­dos, in­clud­ing the ex­tor­tion of ex-mem­bers like Gomez, who was vi­o­lently kicked out of the club in 2005.

Af­ter he was kicked out, Gomez said, he and his fam­ily were sub­jected to shoot­ing at­tempts and as­saults. At one point, one of the Ban­di­dos held a gun to his son’s head.

Fuchs said Gomez was ap­proached by the govern­ment more than 10 years af­ter he had been kicked out and was no longer in­volved in crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity. “We ap­proached him and he pretty quickly agreed to co­op­er­ate and gave us con­fir­ma­tion of what we thought what hap­pened, and helped us with other pieces of the puz­zle,” Fuchs said. “It re­ally gave us the abil­ity to charge those who had pulled the trig­ger and those who gave the or­ders.”

Gomez is the last ex-Ban­dido from San An­to­nio to be sen­tenced af­ter tes­ti­fy­ing in this spring’s three-month trial of the Ban­di­dos’ two for­mer top lead­ers, na­tional Pres­i­dent Jef­frey Fay Pike, 63, of Con­roe, and John Xavier Por­tillo, 59, of San An­to­nio. Ezra sen­tenced the pair two weeks ago to life in prison without pa­role.

Gomez’s lawyer, Mike McCrum, said Gomez turned his life around and “demon­strated in the last 10 years that his chances of re­cidi­vism are frankly, zero.”

Gomez, who was vice pres­i­dent of the South­west San An­to­nio chap­ter un­der Por­tillo in 2002 and went by the nick­name “Corky,” apol­o­gized to his fam­ily. He also apol­o­gized for his role in tak­ing Lara’s life. He said he ques­tioned the Ban­di­dos’ tac­tics dur­ing his mem­ber­ship and was beaten se­verely dur­ing a mo­tor­cy­cle run in New Mex­ico when he was kicked out.

“I con­fronted Mr. Por­tillo be­cause I dis­agreed on his meth­ods ... in or­ga­nized crime and how they did things,” Gomez told the judge. “They had been given or­ders to as­sas­si­nate me. They did not suc­ceed, but I was hos­pi­tal­ized in New Mex­ico. They tried to as­sas­si­nate me at my place of busi­ness.”

Even now, Gomez said, he has to “be aware of my sur­round­ings be­cause of my fear of be­ing as­sas­si­nated.”


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