A 25-year-old man was convicted Wednesday of a gang-related murder that occurred in Anaheim seven years ago, while a co-defendant was acquitted.
Jurors found Ismael Avalos of Anaheim guilty of second-degree murder and a felony count of participating in gang activity, and found true a sentencing enhancement for discharge of a firearm causing death while rejecting a sentencing enhancement for killing for the benefit of a gang.
Avalos is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 10 at the Harbor Justice Center in Newport Beach. He faces a maximum sentence of 40 years to life behind bars.
George Galvan, 26, of Perris, was acquitted of murder with a special circumstance allegation of gang activity in the May 25, 2012, shooting death of of 18-year-old Angel Rivera, who had ties to a rival gang, according to prosecutors.
Galvan’s attorney, Ken Morrison of the Associate Defender’s Office, argued his client had been out partying with Avalos and several others that night, but was driving others to Avalos’ house before going home when the shooting happened. Morrison criticized Anaheim police for failing to take a closer look at another suspect.
During the trial, Morrison’s investigators tracked down the brother of a girl, who was believed to be in the middle of a dispute between Avalos and Rivera, the attorney said. They had to fly the witness, Ivan Albarran, in from Utah to testify.
Albarran testified that Avalos called him a minute before the shooting looking for the girl he believed Rivera was involved with, Morrison said.
“It was about a girl, not a gang, and my client had nothing to do with it,” the defense attorney said.
After hanging out at Avalos’ house and drinking there, the group, which included Galvan for a short time, went to go hang out at a park to smoke marijuana and continue drinking, Morrison said.
About 10 p.m., one member of the group asked for a ride home so Galvan offered to take that individual and anyone else in the group, Morrison said.
Galvan was on probation at the time and wearing a GPS bracelet, so he was eager to get home before curfew and had to avoid being in certain areas of Anaheim, where he previously lived, Morrison said.
One girl in the group convinced Galvan to stop at a liquor store, and that is when Avalos and another man got out of the car and did not return, Morrison said. The defense attorney argued that they walked to the scene of the shooting and killed Rivera.
“My client at that time was 1.4 miles away, still with the girl in his car and other people,” Morrison said. “Somebody said something bad happened, we have to go back and pick him up.”
Galvan drove to where Avalos was to pick him up, which was several blocks from the shooting, Morrison said.
“That’s a hell of a getaway driver,” he said. “He drives away, and makes the shooter run several blocks and picks him up on a busy street … It was farcical.”
Galvan was working full-time in a distribution center warehouse for the Ross store chain at the time he was arrested, Morrison said. He spent 7 1/2 years in jail awaiting trial, which was delayed, in part, by a legal dispute between prosecutors and court officials on blanket disqualification requests of now-4th District Court of Appeal Justice Thomas Goethals.
As a Superior Court judge, Goethals kicked the Orange County District Attorney’s Office off the case against Scott Dekraai, the worst mass killer in the county’s history, due to outrageous governmental misconduct allegations.