The Criminal Courts building in downtown Los Angeles. Photo by John Schreiber.
The Criminal Courts building in downtown Los Angeles. Photo by John Schreiber.

A 21-year-old man who helped set up a robbery during a drug deal that went awry in Pasadena, leaving a young man dead, was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ronald S. Coen also ordered John Michael Piepoli Jr. to serve an additional 25 years to life in state prison.

Piepoli was convicted Oct. 29 of one count each of first-degree murder, attempted robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery in connection with the Jan. 15, 2013, shooting of 21-year-old Zane Goldstein, who died two days later.

Jurors also found true a special circumstance allegation that Goldstein was murdered during the commission of an attempted robbery.

Four other men are facing the same charges in connection with Goldstein’s killing.

Raymond Frank Conchas, 25, Peter Parra, 37, Kevin Jessie Cabrera, 27, and Ward Lacey IV, 20, are still awaiting trial.

Deputy District Attorney Stefan Mrakich told the judge that Piepoli and Lacey set up a plan for the robbery and decided to use Conchas as the “muscle” for the hold-up, which was to occur during a drug transaction. Parra and Cabrera are also accused of being involved in the attempted robbery.

The prosecutor told jurors that Piepoli was not at the crime scene, but was “equally guilty.”

Piepoli’s attorney, William Jacobson, countered that it was “a case that has nothing to do with robbery.”

The defense attorney told jurors in his closing argument that it was “simply an attempted assassination” stemming from Goldstein’s alleged failure to pay a gang “taxes” for selling marijuana in its territory. He argued that his client was “never part of an agreement to commit a murder” and “never knew what the actual conspiracy was here.”

In ruling that a life prison sentence was “not disproportionate to the crime itself or the defendant’s culpability,” the judge noted that Piepoli helped to set up the robbery and supplied a code to gain the victim’s confidence.

Goldstein’s father told the judge that his son was a “very charismatic boy who loved people, and people loved him.”

City News Service

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