Gang Member Pleads Guilty in Attack on Victim Complaining About Graffiti

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NEWPORT BEACH (CNS) - A 31-year-old gang member pleaded guilty today to stabbing a man, who was left paralyzed after confronting a group of graffiti vandals in Anaheim.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Gregg Prickett set a 23-year limit on a sentence for Alfredo Gabriel Villegas, his attorney Ed Welbourn said. Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 17, Welbourn said.

Villegas ``knows it's a long time'' he faces in prison, ``but he knows'' pleading guilty is ``the right thing to do,'' Welbourn said, adding Villegas wants to spare the family having to go through a trial

``He feels badly, and is very remorseful about what happened,'' Welbourn said. ``He obviously made a horrible decision and feels very bad for the injury and the paralysis the victim suffered.

``He understands that and what he needs to do to take responsibility and move forward with his life and hopes the victim can also move forward with his life.''

The then-51-year-old victim was stabbed in the 100 block of South Stinson Street, near Lincoln Avenue, about 9:30 p.m., on July 26, 2015, and suffered a ``life-altering injury,'' police said in September 2015.

The defendants were ``tagging a condemned building'' when the victim pulled up and told them to stop, Welbourn said. A fight broke out with the defendants punching and kicking the victim when Villegas dashed over and stabbed the man, Welbourn said.

Villegas pleaded guilty to attempted murder, mayhem, assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury and participating in a street gang, all felonies. He faces sentencing enhancements for gang activity and causing great bodily injury that leads to paralysis.

A sentencing enhancement for attempted premeditated murder and a count of aggravated mayhem were dismissed as part of Villegas' plea bargain. He would have a faced a potential life sentence with those charges and sentencing enhancement.

Two other men involved in the attack previously pleaded guilty.

Andrew Steven Morales, 30, pleaded guilty Feb. 22 to single felony counts of assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury, assault with a deadly weapon, participating in gang activity and vandalism. He was sentenced to time already served in jail and was released.

Co-defendant Jacob Antonio Weis, 28, who was arrested June 2, 2016, was sentenced Feb. 22 to 13 years in prison, according to court records. He pleaded guilty to participating in gang activity and assault with a deadly weapon.

In both plea deals, charges of attempted murder with a sentencing enhancement of attempted premeditated murder, which carries a life sentence, were dismissed along with charges of aggravated mayhem.

Co-defendant Fernando Zaraterojo, 31, is awaiting trial on charges of attempted murder, aggravated mayhem, assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury and participating in gang activity, all felonies, and faces sentencing enhancements for attempted premeditated murder and gang activity.

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