A Corona man was convicted Wednesday of an attempted robbery that nearly turned deadly in a Santa Ana motel room a year ago.
Kenny Alfredo Poncio, 42, of Corona, was convicted of one count of attempted murder, one count of attempted robbery, one count of assault with a semiautomatic firearm and single counts of possession of a firearm by a felon and possession of a firearm with a prior conviction for the same charge, all felonies.
Jurors, who deliberated for about four hours, also found true sentencing enhancements for attempted premeditated murder, discharge of a firearm causing great bodily injury, and inflicting great bodily injury on the victim. Jurors acquitted him of one count of attempted robbery.
Poncio shot John Lambert on Jan. 23, 2022, at the Motel 6 at 1717 E. Dyer Road.
Lambert and a woman who were at a 7-Eleven store across the street agreed to meet in her motel room, Deputy District Attorney Gagan Batth told jurors in her opening statement of the trial.
Another man, Jose Del Muro, arrived a short time later and said he was “there to sell drugs” to the woman, Kianna, Batth said.
Lambert testified that he met Kianna a few times before that night, and they had discussed him doing some “tattoo work” on her. She invited him over to the motel room, so he drove his car across the street and she walked back, he testified.
Lambert testified the plan was to give her a ride somewhere later, but he was also hoping to have sex with her. She wanted to take a shower first, he said.
“She had me sit down at the table in the room,” he testified. “I was there four or five minutes before someone knocked.”
Lambert traded drugs with Del Muro, he testified.
“He had methamphetamine and I had fentanyl,” he testified.
They each did one dose and then he heard a hushed conversation between Kianna and Poncio, Lambert testified. He said it made him nervous “because of the way it sounded, like they didn’t want me to hear what they were saying.”
Then Poncio came from around the corner with a gun, he testified.
“It was a semi-automatic, black,” he said. “He was pointing it at me. He said, `What the (expletive) are you doing in my room?”
Lambert said he nodded at Kianna and said, “She invited me.”
Poncio told Lambert and Del Muro to go over to the bed, sit down and “empty your pockets,” Lambert testified.
Lambert crouched down as if to sit down, but then had second thoughts.
“Instinct told me not to give him anything,” Lambert said.
Lambert said he had a gold necklace, an iPhone, money and a briefcase carrying his computer on him at the time.
“I said, `Who the (expletive) do you think you are pointing that (expletive) at me,’ and he shot me,” Lambert testified.
Batth showed jurors surveillance video of Del Muro dashing down the motel hall, followed by the woman and Poncio, who hopped on a bike. Lambert stumbled out last and said he fell down, crawling, shouting for help.
“I left the room, called 911. I had the phone in my hand,” Lambert testified. “People opened the door and looked out of their rooms, but no one helped me.”
When Batth asked him if he feared for his life, Lambert testified, “As I was nearing the end of the hallway and losing consciousness I remember thinking to myself, I pictured all of my family. I thought I was going to die.”
Lambert said the next thing he remembered was finally regaining consciousness at OC Global Medical Center in Santa Ana.
“It was a while before I regained consciousness,” he testified. “I still don’t know to this day how long I was unconscious.”
It may have been a week or two, he testified.
He sustained gunshot wounds to his arm, chest and stomach, and also suffered kidney damage, Batth said.
Poncio’s attorney, Roger Sheaks, argued his client only fired once and that one bullet could have done all that damage as its trajectory could be altered when it enters the body.
Poncio testified that a friend left the gun in the bathroom of the motel room and the defendant was frightened when he saw the two men in the room.
“If there had been multiple shots fired then we’d have multiple shell casings” at the crime scene, Sheaks said. “If there had been multiple shots fired we’d have multiple bullets.”
Lambert did not testify that there were bullets left in his body doctors didn’t or couldn’t remove, the defense attorney said.
Sheaks also argued that one bullet was fired, and that the defendant’s DNA was found on the shell casing because he stepped on it.
When Poncio testified he said, “I’ve been a coward and a liar my whole life,” according to Sheaks, who said he saw that as a sign his client was in a 12-step program to get clean.
“I think what we might have heard is someone who got clean since he’s been in custody,” Sheaks said, referring to a sobriety program’s typical commitment to honesty.
“If he wants to be well again he has to be honest,” Sheaks said.
The defense attorney argued his client acted in imperfect self-defense.
“I’m asking you to come back and find Mr. Poncio used reasonable self-defense in this case,” Sheaks said.
Jurors also had the opportunity to consider a lesser charge of attempted voluntary manslaughter.
Batth argued that Poncio’s DNA is on the cartridge found at the crime scene, “because he loaded” the gun. She argued that Poncio picked up the other shell casings before he fled, but missed one of them.
The prosecutor also pointed out that Kianna, the defendant’s girlfriend, was sitting next to Lambert at the time of the shooting.
“He sees Mr. Lambert as a threat and yet Kianna is sitting next to him — make that make sense,” Batth said.
The two men “didn’t even say they had a weapon,” Batth said.
“He’s lying to you… it’s a lie,” Batth said.
She also argued that the self-defense claim is a new one.
“Does he tell police about this self-defense claim?” Batth said. “That comes up for the first time in court… He says he saw people in his room and got scared. That story makes no sense. These two individuals were invited to his room by his `baby’ girlfriend. They planned this. They planned to robe these two individuals.”
Batth said Kianna “lured both of these men into the room to get robbed.”
When the shooting happens, Poncio flees, the prosecutor noted.
“He booked. He runs pretty quickly,” she said. “Does that look like someone who (acted) in self-defense?”
The prosecutor said Lambert “was left there to die.”
Poncio is awaiting trial for another attempted robbery and assault with a semiautomatic firearm on Feb. 15, 2021, according to court records.
He pleaded guilty to felony grand theft and misdemeanor counts of possession of a controlled substance, drug paraphernalia and burglary tools in September 2019. He pleaded guilty to armed robbery in August 1999 as well, according to court records.