Judge de­nies re­lease to 7 in­dicted in con­nec­tion with of­fi­cer killing

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - News - BY CRESENCIO RO­DRIGUEZ-DEL­GADO cdel­[email protected]­nobee.com

Four peo­ple con­nected to the man ac­cused of killing a New­man po­lice of­fi­cer were de­nied re­lease from cus­tody Fri­day – the same day they, along with three oth­ers, were in­dicted by a grand jury.

A fed­eral grand jury is­sued an in­dict­ment against the seven peo­ple ac­cused of aid­ing Paulo Vir­gen Men­doza, an un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grant, af­ter he al­legedly gunned down New­man po­lice Cpl. Ronil Singh dur­ing a traf­fic stop Dec. 26.

They have been iden­ti­fied as Erik Razo Quiroz, 29, of Merced; Adrian Vir­gen Men­doza, 25, of Fairfield; Con­rado Vir­gen Men­doza, 34, of Chowchilla; Erasmo Vil­le­gas Suarez, 36, of But­ton­wil­low; Ana Leydi Cer­vantes Sanchez, 31, of New­man; Bern­abe Madri­gal Cas­taneda, 59, of La­mont; and his wife, Maria Luisa Moreno, 57, also of La­mont.

All seven were charged with con­spir­ing to hide Men­doza and help­ing him evade au­thor­i­ties, and mak­ing plans to smug­gle him back to Mex­ico.

Quiroz was ac­cused of dis­pos­ing of the gun al­legedly used by Men­doza to kill Singh. Quiroz faces a max­i­mum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if he is found guilty of the firearm of­fense, ac­cord­ing to the in­dict­ment an­nounce­ment by U.S. At­tor­ney McGre­gor W. Scott.

If con­victed of the con­spir­acy charges, all seven face five years in prison and fines of $250,000.

The in­dict­ment was made pub­lic hours be­fore sched­uled court ap­pear­ances in down­town Fresno by four of the seven. Vil­le­gas The de­ten­tion hear­ing for Cas­taneda, Moreno and Suarez had been con­tin­ued from Tues­day be­cause Mag­is­trate Sheila K. Oberto had ex­pressed doubts about re­leas­ing them.

Oberto ul­ti­mately de­nied re­lease, how­ever. She said there was a flight risk with all three. In de­cid­ing to keep them in cus­tody, Oberto said all three were un­truth­ful with au­thor­i­ties and will­ingly helped Men­doza at­tempt to evade au­thor­i­ties de­spite know­ing Men­doza had al­legedly killed the of­fi­cer.

Moreno fell to the ground when Oberto com­pleted her state­ments Fri­day. Moreno was picked up from the floor by a U.S. Mar­shal and she limped and sobbed as she was taken away in tears.

Fam­ily had been present in case the judge had granted re­lease to any of the de­fen­dants.

A short time later, Oberto also heard ar­gu­ments to re­lease a fourth de­fen­dant, Ana Leydi Cer­vantes Sanchez, the girl­friend of Men­doza.

She en­tered the court­room with U.S. Mar­shals, and sat shack­led and teary-eyed as de­fense at­tor­ney John Meyer ar­gued for her re­lease. Meyer, speak­ing to Oberto, stated the con­di­tions that Sanchez’s fam­ily was will­ing to fol­low if she was re­leased to them. Sanchez’s brother, sis­ter-in­law and two other fam­ily mem­bers were present in court.

But Oberto de­nied re­leas­ing Sanchez, too. Prose­cu­tor Es­co­bar re­ported to the judge that Sanchez was a “sig­nif­i­cant flight risk” and that there was lit­tle record of her be­ing in the coun­try other than once, hav­ing ap­plied for po­lit­i­cal asy­lum.

Meyer said the asy­lum

re­quest was due to Sanchez’s fears of vi­o­lence against her if she re­turned to her home state of Mi­choa­can, Mex­ico. He said that her hus­band, whom she mar­ried eight years ago, was kid­napped and killed be­fore she left for the United States.

That wasn’t enough to con­vince the judge. Oberto said Sanchez made false state­ments to law en­force­ment, pro­vided a change of clothes for Men­doza and wit­nessed at­tempts by oth­ers to con­ceal Men­doza’s truck fol­low­ing the shoot­ing of the po­lice of­fi­cer.

Sanchez re­port­edly told law en­force­ment that she pro­vided a change of clothes for her boyfriend be­cause “she loves him,” ac­cord­ing to state­ments read in court by Oberto.

The judge also wasn’t con­vinced of re­leas­ing Sanchez since Es­co­bar said Sanchez failed to re­port that she had moved to New­man af­ter ap­ply­ing for asy­lum. Her res­i­dence on file was in the San Diego area.

Oberto noted fam­ily ties to Mex­ico for all four de­fen­dants who ap­peared in court Fri­day. And she stated that, had she re­leased them, none had the abil­ity to find em­ploy­ment since they were in the coun­try il­le­gally.

The three other men who were in­dicted, Men­doza’s broth­ers Con­rado Vir­gen Men­doza and Adrian Vir­gen, along with Erik Razo Quiroz, were all de­nied re­lease as well dur­ing this week’s de­ten­tion hear­ings. Men­doza’s broth­ers are ac­cused of trans­port­ing him fol­low­ing the shoot­ing. Quiroz is ac­cused of get­ting rid of the weapon and con­ceal­ing Men­doza’s truck.

All seven are ex­pected to re­turn to court Jan. 29 to be ar­raigned on the charges.

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