POMONA - Two San Gabriel Valley men charged with the shooting death of a 6-year-old boy pleaded no contest to manslaughter charges on Tuesday as part of a plea agreement, the District Attorney's office announced.Mathew Steven Loza, 20, pleaded no contest to one count of involuntary manslaughter and admitted an allegation that he personally used a firearm in the commission of the offense. Co-defendant Richard Paul Joseph Gomez, 21, pleaded no contest to one count each of involuntary manslaughter and unlawful firearm activity. Pomona Superior Court Judge Jack Hunt immediately sentenced Loza to the maximum state prison term of 14 years. Loza must serve 85 percent of the sentence before becoming eligible for parole, prosecutors said. Gomez received three years in prison. The District Attorney's office extended the plea deal "after a careful review of evidence," officials said. Lopez and Gomez were charged with the fatal shooting of Jessie Valencia, who was playing outside his Azusa home on Jan. 8. Gomez lived across the street from the boy's house. On the day of the incident, Loza visited Gomez at his home. During the visit, Gomez produced a Winchester rifle that belonged to his father, prosecutors said. While handling the rifle, Loza allegedly aimed the weapon across the street and pulled the trigger, killing Jessie with a single gunshot. According to prosecutors, evidence indicated that the defendants thought the rifle was not loaded and did not intend to hurt the victim. A firearms expert with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said there was a malfunction with the loading and unloading mechanism of the rifle, making it appear the rifle was unloaded. Under the terms of the negotiated settlement, one count of murder was dismissed for each defendant. Gomez also had a count of accessory after the fact dismissed.
********** Published: August 19, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 18