Judge reduces ‘friendly fire’ prison sentence

A San Antonio man who received the maximum sentence of 20 years in prison in August for the accidental shooting death of his cousin had his prison term reduced Wednesday to eight years.

State District Judge Philip Kazen, who determined the original sentence, agreed to the reduction after defense attorney Richard Langlois asked him to reconsider. The defendant, Fernando Cedillo, cared about his 17-year-old cousin Matthew Cedillo, and had helped him out with cash and meals, Langlois said.

Cedillo was initially arrested for murder in May 2007, after he and his cousin were confronted by strangers as they argued loudly with a girlfriend around 2 a.m. in a residential neighborhood. A gun battle ensued, and he hit his cousin with what he told police was “friendly fire,” court documents state.

Prosecutors had initially offered Cedillo an eight-year sentence as part of a plea agreement, but he instead opted to make an open plea to the judge so he could request probation, Langlois said.

Murder conviction for man who prompted cop to shoot

He didn’t pull the trigger but was charged with causing the slaying.

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Jesse Ramon didn’t fatally shoot well-known female impersonator James Lee Whitehead when he mugged him in 2009 — a police officer accidentally did that.

But it took jurors less than 30 minutes Friday to find Ramon guilty of murder for causing the chain of events that led to Whitehead’s death.

Ramon, 24, now faces up to life in prison. Jurors also deliberated his punishment for about two hours but were unable to reach a decision before state District Judge Ron Rangel sent them home for the weekend. The panel will continue deliberating on Monday.

“The whole thing just happened quick. It was too quick,” Ramon testified during the punishment phase of his trial. “I do owe my deepest, sincerest apology for Mr. Whitehead, his family and any individual who knew the man… What happened was just a tragedy.”

Ramon was short on rent and looking for someone to rob when he decided to target Whitehead, who was walking home about 3 a.m. near San Antonio college, prosecutors Miguel Najera and Ashley Botard have said.

Ramon beat Whitehead and demanded money while holding a loaded pistol to his chest, they said. When San Antonio Police Officer William Karman arrived and yelled repeatedly for Ramon to drop his weapon, the defendant ignored the demands and advanced on the officer, who opened fire, Karman and another witness testified.

Shot four times, Ramon was in a coma for more than a month, he told jurors. Whitehead was struck once and died that morning.

“His actions made him a threat that needed to be stopped,” Najera said of Ramon during closing arguments. “This is a simple case of cause and effect. He caused the situation, and the effect is an innocent man died.”

Whitehead was dressed in men’s clothing at the time of the incident, but he was known in Austin and San Antonio for his charity drag shows under the stage name Niki Hunter.

“We’re going to miss him dearly,” testified Joseph Johnson, his roommate. “So is the (gay, lesbian and transgender) community in San Antonio and throughout the United States.”

Ramon gave his own version of events Friday. He had been drinking, smoking marijuana and carrying a gun to calm his nerves after someone tried to rob him at his apartment, he said. While going out to meet some women, he saw one of Whitehead’s friends make a rude gesture at him as he was at a stop sign, staring out the window, he said.

That caused Ramon to get out of the vehicle and start a fight with both Whitehead and his friend, he said. He pulled the gun out for protection and didn’t see the officer behind him, he said.

Because robbery and aggravated assault are both felonies, it doesn’t really matter which version jurors believe, prosecutors said, arguing that Ramon is guilty of murder either way.

But Ramon’s version of events was “crazy” and not compatible with witness testimony, prosecutors said as they later suggested a life sentence. Defense attorneys Richard Langlois and William Brooks didn’t request a specific sentence but asked that it not be life in prison.

Drunken driver who killed motorcyclist gets 12 years

A San Antonio man was sentenced to 12 years in prison Monday for a drunken driving accident last year that resulted in the death of a motorcyclist along Culebra Road.

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A San Antonio man was sentenced to 12 years in prison Monday for a drunken driving accident last year that resulted in the death of a motorcyclist along Culebra Road.

Defense attorney Richard Langlois argued that Adrian Gutierrez, 27, who has HIV, would receive poor health care in prison. Gutierrez told state District Judge Sid Harle that he wished the roles had been reversed.

“I feel terrible. I wish I would be six feet underground,” he said. “I’m slowly dying, and there’s not much left here.”

Gilbert Martinez, 33, was wearing protective gear and had no drugs or alcohol in his system, prosecutor Tamara Strauch pointed out. He was killed March, 20, 2009, after witnesses said Gutierrez, who had a .19 blood alcohol level, drove on the wrong side of the road.

He pleaded no contest to intoxication manslaughter in August in exchange for prosecutors agreeing to ask the judge for no more than 15 years in prison.