The woman who provided a gun used to kill one teenager and wound another at a 2004 Redwood City birthday party before purposely leading investigators astray about the shooter’s identity will be imprisoned five years for being an accessory to murder.
Ana Delia Cervantes, 26, pleaded no contest to two felonies Wednesday morning in return for the negotiated plea deal in which she also admitted acting for the benefit of the Sureño gang. Cervantes was immediately sentenced with credit for 192 days.
She was originally charged with murder, attempted murder, aiding a criminal and acting to benefit the gang — counts that when taken together could have meant 50 years to life in prison.
In the face of that possibility rather than as admission of guilt, Cervantes preferred to settle, said defense attorney Eric Liberman.
"I will adamantly maintain until the day I die, she was not guilty of murder,” Liberman said.
However, he did conceded she was guilty of leading investigators astray, he said.
"It was very, very wrong of her to do that and she accepts responsibility for what she’s done,” Liberman said.
Prosecutors agreed to settle the case rather than pursue trial in part because they could not conclusively prove Cervantes handed the weapon directly to her common-law husband, Heriberto Sanchez, who in turn fired.
She may have instead handed it to his brother who then gave it to Sanchez, said District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.
According to neighbors and police after the April 17, 2004 shooting, Mendoza and his friends were at the community center for a quincenera when another group arrived and began belting them with Corona bottles. During the skirmish, Cervantes allegedly pulled the gun from her purse.
Liberman said other versions included Sanchez wrestling with Cervantes over the bag and another man bringing the bag to him.
Vicente Elisondo Mendoza was killed and a 16-year-old boy was struck in the leg.
Sanchez fled while Cervantes purposely lied to authorities about the shooter’s identity and direction of flight. He remains at large and there is still an outstanding warrant for his arrest.
She also fled the area and remained at large until Sept. 19 when she was apprehended crossing the border from Mexico back into the United States. Liberman contends she was returning on her own volition to clear up the pending charges and arrest warrant. He also insists she was not a gangmember but had no choice but to admit it under the terms of the offered deal.
Michelle Durand can be reached by e-mail: email@example.com or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 102.