Two gang members pleaded guilty and have been sentenced to 13 years in prison for a gang-related fatal shooting of a 24-year-old man in Placentia two days before Christmas Day 2012.

Ignacio David Morales, 25, and Luis Ramon Llanes, 29, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and admitted a sentencing enhancement for gang activity as part of a plea deal that led to the dismissal of murder charges.

Co-defendant Daniel Nestor, who is charged with murder, was next due in court Aug. 4. He also faces charges of conspiracy and participating in a gang as well as multiple sentencing enhancements for gang activity and shooting a gun, according to court records.

Jorge Gonzales Valdez, a Placentia resident who police say had no gang affiliation, was walking with two others in the north alley of the 600 block of Center Street just after midnight Dec. 23, 2012, when the three defendants drove up in a car and asked him, “Where are you from,” a common ploy of gang members that police call a “gang hit up,” Placentia police Detective Jason Reger said.

Valdez said he wasn’t from anywhere, and when they again asked him the question he said he was from La Jolla. That’s when shots rang out and he was killed, Reger said.

Morales’ attorney, Jacqueline Goodman, “raised concerns” about how a jailhouse informant was used in the case against her client. The same informant was used in the case against another one of her clients, Arthur Palma Espinoza, who is also charged in a gang-related murder.

Morales had no prior felony convictions, Goodman said. He has a 4-year- old son who was born before he was jailed in the killing, she added.

Llanes’ attorney, Rodger Carey, said “it was a defensible case,” but the prosecutor, Israel Claustro, made an offer that was preferable Friday to gambling on a trial and receiving a life sentence.

There was no immediate response to an email sent to Claustro after regular business hours inquiring about the claim raised by Goodman and Carey’s belief the case against Llanes was defensible.

–City News Service

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