LONG BEACH - Jurors on Thursdauy convicted a 17-year-old Long Beach resident accused of carrying out a gang murder to avenge the death of his younger brother.Deputy District Attorney Patrick Frey of the Hardcore Gang Division said Eric Antonio Benites was convicted of the first-degree murder of Florentino Rivera on Jan. 6, 2008. Jurors found true special allegations of gang murder and principal discharge of a firearm causing great bodily injury and death. Benites also was convicted of five counts of willful, deliberate and premeditated attempted murder. Jurors found true a gang allegation and an allegation that a principal discharged a firearm. The defendant additionally was convicted of one count each of assault with a firearm and possession of live ammunition by a minor. Jurors, who deliberated for four hours before returning the verdicts, additionally found true that the defendant personally and intentionally discharged a firearm causing great bodily injury as to two attempted murder victims. Long Beach Superior Court Judge J.D. Lord is expected to sentence Benites on Aug. 13. Benites faces a maximum prison term of 245 years to life. Late Wednesday, after a day of deliberations, a separate jury convicted co-defendant Jason Trejo, 16, of first-degree murder. Jurors found true gang and personal use of a firearm allegations, and an allegation that a principal discharged a firearm causing great bodily injury and death. Trejo was additionally convicted of four counts of willful, deliberate and premeditated attempted murder. Jurors found true gang, personal use and principal discharge of a firearm allegations. The defendant also was convicted of one count of assault with a firearm. An allegation that the defendant personally discharged a firearm was found not true. Trejo is expected to be sentenced on Sept. 10. He faces a maximum prison term of 214 years to life. Benites and Trejo killed Rivera to avenge the murder of Benites' younger brother, Jose Cano, 13, prosecutors said. Cano was killed on June 26, 2007 by rival gang members. Benites turned on associates of a local gang when they failed to retaliate following Cano's murder.
********** Published: July 29, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 15