A 21-year-old man has been sentenced to 18 years to life in prison for the shotgun killing of a 17-year-old outside a Fountain Valley convenience store two years ago, Orange County prosecutors announced Thursday.
Reda Hassan Safieddine was sentenced Wednesday by Orange County Superior Court Judge William Froeberg, who adjusted the defendant’s conviction to reduce his punishment from 40 years to life in prison. Froeberg set aside a sentencing enhancement that would have added 25 years to the sentence.
Safieddine was convicted Sept. 18 of second-degree murder and brandishing a firearm. Jurors, who deliberated for about four hours, also found true a sentencing enhancement for the personal discharge of a gun.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Steve McGreevy argued there was evidence to show Safieddine committed first-degree murder when he shot Valle Valeriano about 1:20 p.m., Aug. 13, 2012, outside a 7-Eleven store at 16475 Harbor Blvd.
Jurors were allowed to consider the lesser charge under the implied malice legal theory given the disparity in size between the victim and the defendant and a conflict between the two earlier in the day, McGreevy said.
“He took that gun, racked a round and shot that 17-year-old in the neck and he died,” McGreevy said in his opening statement of the trial.
“If you’re looking or a good reason for this killing you’re not going to find one… If you’re looking for justified self-defense you’re not going to find that either.”
Tensions between Safieddine and Valeriano dated back to 2009 at Los Amigos High School when the victim was beaten by the defendant and his fellow vandals, McGreevy said.
On the day of the killing, the two crossed paths at Mohawk Drive and Cubbon Street in Santa Ana about 12:30 p.m., McGreevy said.
Valeriano and his friends, who were driving around high on nitrous oxide, got into an argument with Safieddine, who was with his girlfriend, McGreevy said. Safieddine got out of his car and fetched the shotgun out of the trunk and threatened the victim, who challenged Safieddine to, “Shoot me, shoot me,” the prosecutor added.
The two groups drove away, however, but ran into each other again nearly an hour later at the convenience store parking lot, McGreevy said.
A witness from a tattoo shop in the strip mall told investigators he saw Safieddine shoot Valeriano in the neck from about 10 feet away, McGreevy said.
Valeriano was 6-foot-2 and weighed about 180 pounds and had the tagging nickname of Bam Bam, McGreevy said. He had nitrous oxide and marijuana in his system when he was killed, the prosecutor added.
Safieddine had a stun gun in his vehicle as well as the shotgun, McGreevy said.
Safieddine’s attorney, William Elliott, said the victim and his companions were all documented gang members and his client, who was 5-foot-7 and about 125 pounds, was dwarfed by Valeriano.
For two years, Valeriano and his friends “taunted” Safieddine in high school, Elliott said.
When the two squared off the first time the day the victim was fatally shot, Safieddine’s girlfriend was “scared to death,” Elliott said.
Safieddine confronted Valeriano with an unloaded shotgun in the first conflict, the defense attorney said.
When they re-engaged at the convenience store, Safieddine put “bird shot” in the gun instead of the more deadly “buck shot,” Elliott said.
“He tells police, ‘I didn’t want to destroy anyone,’ ” Elliott said.
Safieddine did not run away following the shooting, had his girlfriend call 911 and tried to stop the victim’s bleeding, Elliott said.
“He didn’t want to kill him,” Elliott said. “The first thing he tells police is, ‘I shot him in self defense.”
— City News Service