The assaults were racially
motivated, prosecutors say
SAN DIEGO — A group of teenagers who attacked five Mexican farm workers were sentenced Friday to terms ranging from four months in a youth detention camp to time in adult prisons in a case that caused widespread outrage and became a test for a state juvenile justice initiative.
Judge James Milliken rejected defense lawyers’ requests to sentence the teens as juveniles, citing the severity of the July 5, 2000, attack on the men in a San Diego canyon.
“The fact that this behavior is possible is a sad commentary on the community,” Milliken said. “I, for one, feel we have to tell the community that we are not going to put up with it.”
Four teens sentenced Friday were part of a group of eight who, according to prosecutors, hunted down and severely beat the farm workers in a racially motivated attack. They used clubs, steel rods and BB guns to assault and rob the men at their encampment near the nursery where they worked.
The four pleaded no contest to charges that included assault with a deadly weapon with a special hate-crime allegation, robbery and elder abuse. The victims were in their 60s at the time.
Three other teens who pleaded no contest to similar charges and one who pleaded guilty are scheduled to be sentenced July 23.
The most lenient sentence handed down Friday, 120 days in a youth camp, went to Morgan Victor Manduley, 17, who the prosecutor called the “least culpable” in the attack.
Manduley was the lead plaintiff in a challenge to Proposition 21, the 2000 state law that allows prosecutors to try juveniles as adults for violent offenses without a judge’s approval.
In April, the state Supreme Court upheld the voter-approved initiative. Milliken said that even though he didn’t support the measure, he was obligated to abide by it during sentencing.
Jason Wayne Beever, 16, was ordered to serve 180 days in a youth camp. Both Beever and Manduley were given five years of probation and ordered to attend a class on racial sensitivity and perform 200 hours of community service.
Two other defendants who prosecutors said played more serious roles in the attack — Adam Mitchell Ketsdever, 18, and Bradly Hunter Davidofsky, 17 — were ordered to serve 90 days in an adult state prison. After that time, their cases will be reevaluated and Milliken could sentence them to as much as 15 years in prison. He could also send them to county jail or release them.
Michael Anthony Rose, 17, was scheduled to be sentenced Friday, but his case was postponed until July 23 to enable lawyers to determine whether he is eligible to be sent to the California Youth Authority because he was younger than 16 at the time of the crime.
During much of the proceeding, Manduley and Beever could be seen crying as they say in the jury box, accompanied by their lawyers. The three other defendants showed little emotion, other than to bow their heads occasionally.
Two of the victims, Anastacio Irigoyen, 71, and Alfredo Sanchez, 64, were in court and listened to the proceeding through an interpreter. Facing the two men, Manduley said: “I would really like to apologize to all the men involved in this incident.”
Ketsdever, whose actions prosecutor Hector Jimenez had called “sadistic,” also apologized, saying, “I am truly sorry for what I’ve done and I hope that some day I might make it up to you and your families.”
Jimenez called Davidofsky the “most responsible” for the attack. “I think Mr. Davidofsky deserves to go to prison,” he said.
The attack sparked strong reaction across San Diego. Latino organizations called for harsh punishment of the teenagers, who come from the relatively affluent neighborhood of Rancho Penasquitos. Manduley’s father is a Navy commander who is a Cuban immigrant.
In reaction to the sentences, Luis Natividad of the Latino/Latina Unity Coalition of San Diego said: “We’re satisfied that they didn’t get off. ... They should do some time.”
A civil lawsuit filed against the boys’ families ended in January with agreements to have about $1.4 million divided among the victims, who were legally employed at the nursery.
Irigoyen, who now lives in La Paz, Mexico, said he feels lingering effects from the attack. “They left me there for dead,” he said. “They should be punished as adults.”
In speaking to the court, Sanchez said he still has five BB pellets embedded in his body, including one below his right eye and two in his ear. “I want justice according to the law,” he said.
When police found Sanchez after the beating, he was in a fetal position in his hut and unable to come out. “The defendants admitted they shot the hell of him,” Jimenez said.
“It is completely upsetting that these young men could be so callous, that they could treat these men like animals,” he added.