A 24-year-old man who pleaded guilty to the gang-related killing of another man in Placentia two days before Christmas in 2012 was sentenced Monday to nearly 22 years in prison.
Daniel Nestor pleaded guilty June 18 to voluntary manslaughter and participating in a gang while also admitting sentencing enhancement allegations of gang activity and the personal use of a firearm.
Nestor was sentenced to 21 years and eight months in prison.
As part of the plea deal, murder charges that would have meant a life sentence were dropped.
The plea deal came after his attorney, Richard Cheung of the Orange County Public Defender’s Office, filed a motion in November requesting jail records for prolific confidential informants Jose Paredes and Raymond Cuevas, who have surfaced as sources of legal challenges in multiple cases throughout the Southland because of allegations of direct or implied threats against other inmates while eliciting incriminating statements.
Reports that the two were paid $335,000 over four years while working as informants on dozens of cases prompted legislation to restrict compensation for jailhouse snitches.
Cheung also requested information from a jail special handling log that became a central focus of allegations of improper use of informants in the case against the worst mass killer in Orange County history, Scott Dekraai.
Jorge 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 Nestor, Ignacio David Morales and Luis Ramon Llanes 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 Department 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.
Nestor’s guilty plea came nearly a year after two co-defendants admitted their involvement in the shooting.
Morales, 26, and Llanes, 30, pleaded guilty July 14, 2017, 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. They were sentenced to 13 years in prison.
Morales had no prior felony convictions, his attorney, Jacqueline Goodman, said last year.
Goodman filed a motion in September of 2014 quoting a detective’s probable cause declaration that authorities ran a “Perkins Operation” in the jail with confidential informants to elicit incriminating statements from the defendants. Nestor told the confidential informants that Morales was the driver and that he and Llanes shot the victim and got rid of the guns, according to the detective’s statement, Goodman said.
Llanes’ attorney, Rodger Carey, said last year that “it was a defensible case,” but the prosecutor, Israel Claustro, made an offer that was preferable to gambling on a trial and receiving a life sentence.
Michelle Van Der Linden, a spokeswoman for the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, said in June when Nestor pleaded guilty that, “The prosecution’s case relied in large part on the statements Daniel Nestor made to jailhouse informants. Without those statements, the case may have gone unsolved.
“In this instance, both sides agreed to a negotiated plea with the defendant accepting responsibility for his crimes. After evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of all the evidence in the case, the prosecution believed this to be an appropriate resolution.”
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