Bryant Phillip Islas. Photo courtesy of the Santa Ana Police Department
Bryant Phillip Islas. Photo courtesy of the Santa Ana Police Department

A 32-year-old man was sentenced to five years in prison for a near-fatal shooting of a rival gang member in the middle of the day in Santa Ana about four years ago.

Bryant Phillip Islas pleaded guilty March 17 to attempted murder and street terrorism and admitted a sentencing enhancement for gang activity. Islas has been in custody in Orange County Jail since Oct. 7, 2011.

A mistrial was declared Nov. 29, 2012, when Islas first faced a jury in the shooting of a 23-year-old man on Aug. 31, 2011. The jury was deadlocked 8-4 in favor of acquittal, Islas’ attorney, Laurence Young said.

There were conflicting accounts from witnesses about who was the gunman, Young said.

“There was arguably an alibi” for the defendant, who was in a “mandated recovery” program, Young said.

“That day of the shooting he was not signed in to his classes,” Young said. “He said he was there and somebody did take a photograph of him outside.”

The man who took the photo was also charged with attempted murder and wouldn’t be available to testify in a second trial, Young said.

Young also raised issues about how Deputy District Attorney Erik Petersen turned over evidence to the defense in the case. A jailhouse informant initially said the defendant was the gunman but that information was “buried,” Young claimed.

Young said issues raised in the prosecution of Scott Dekraai, the worst mass killer in the county’s history, helped him gain a settlement in this case.

The Dekraai case also included issues with the use of jailhouse snitches that led Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals to boot the Orange County District Attorney’s Office from the prosecution, a ruling that is under appeal.

Goethals, last year, booted Petersen from a jailhouse beating case because of the way he handled the exchange of evidence with defense attorneys. Petersen was also called as a witness in evidentiary hearings over misconduct allegations in the Dekraai case.

Young said his client accepted a plea bargain because otherwise he faced life in prison if he were convicted in a second trial.

Islas shot the victim, who was on a lunch break from classes, at a county adult education center at 2823 S. Bristol St. about noon on Aug. 31, 2011. The victim nearly died twice in a hospital, but recovered, according to Santa Ana police.

Islas and the victim were in rival gangs and did not know each other, according to Petersen.

Islas, who was arrested on a parole violation in May 2011 and sent to prison in Chino, was enrolled in a 90-day drug-treatment program that the state hires private contractors to run, police said.

The halfway house in Garden Grove was seven miles from the scene of the shooting, Petersen said. Islas was allowed to come and go as he pleased, Petersen said.

The halfway house eventually lost its state funding and reopened under a different name but no longer serves anyone on probation or parole, Petersen said.

— City News Service

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