Man Accused Of Attempting To Carry Out Attack For Mexican Mafia Gets Break

Row of Prison Cells

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SANTA ANA (CNS) - A 33-year-old felon caught up in a crackdown on the Orange County chapter of the Mexican Mafia for attempting to carry out a Christmas Day assault on a man who was hitting on reputed gang boss Johnny Martinez's girlfriend was sentenced Monday to four years in federal prison.

Alex Gonzalez pleaded guilty Sept. 14 to felon in possession of a gun. Probation officials recommended 70 to 87 months in prison, and prosecutors pushed for 10 years before Monday's hearing before U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney.

But by the end of the hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Staples and Carney agreed the defendant deserved much less time behind bars. Because Gonzalez has two years of credit behind bars he now has two more to go.

Carney noted Gonzalez had been "abandoned" by his mother when he was 2, and his father was deported when the defendant was 4. Gonzalez was raised by his "loving" grandparents and an uncle, the judge said.

But Gonzalez -- who ended up taking on his father's moniker, Hit Man, - - "took to the streets" and got hooked on methamphetamine at 13 and "became a father himself at a very young age of 16," Carney said. Later, the defendant became addicted to heroin.

On Dec. 25, 2017, Martinez allegedly ordered an assault on Ricardo Moncada because the reputed Orange County Mexican Mafia chief suspected Moncada was using drugs with "and making advances toward" Martinez's girlfriend, Dolores Mendez, prosecutors said in a sentencing brief.

Martinez had shot-caller Omar Mejia, who is cooperating with prosecutors in the racketeering case against the gang, have someone carry out an assault on Moncada, prosecutors said. Martinez was caught on a wire telling Mejia "get at hitman or the other homies out there" to do the job, prosecutors said.

Martinez said he wanted Moncada "smashed," prosecutors said.

Gonzalez said he would carry out the attack by noon on Christmas, prosecutors said.

Alarmed investigators monitoring the wire ordered a traffic stop of Gonzalez, which led to the defendant getting into a struggle with officers in which a 9 mm gun fell out of his waistband, prosecutors said.

Carney noted Gonzalez has a "troubling criminal history," which included burglarizing the home of a man whose wife recently died of cancer. The victim offered to let Gonzalez's girlfriend stay in his home and gave her a key and rented her a car for the week, but Gonzalez "repaid the man's help by ransacking his house and stealing $210 in cash, credit cards and a game console," prosecutors said.

In 2015, Gonzalez knocked out his girlfriend and broke her cheek bone as she held their one-month-old baby, prosecutors said.

While Gonzalez has been in custody, he weaned himself off of drugs and took parenting and anger management classes, Carney said.

Staples said when he learned more about Gonzalez's past history and his post-arrest conduct he softened his stance on the defendant's punishment. He said he agreed with probation officials on a recommended sentence of 70 to 87 months.

"Giving him the benefit of the doubt... I do hope he rehabilitates himself," Staples told Carney.

Defense attorney Dominic Rossetti argued that his client most likely intended to give Moncada a beat down, or figured he could ignore the order and hoped it would blow over. Rossetti pointed out that Gonzalez missed the noon deadline for the assault and was headed to a Christmas dinner with a friend and their girlfriends when they got pulled over.

"There's nothing to suggest there's a green light on this guy," Rossetti said, referring to an order to kill Moncada.

Carney said he figured the defendant had his gun on him for a pistol whipping.

Rosetti said a call from social services in 2019 was a game-changer for his client. He got a job as a welder and began taking care of his son, the attorney said.

Gonzalez told Carney, "First, I want to apologize to my family, to my kids" for putting them through his legal ordeals.

Gonzalez said when he was young, "I tried to follow my dad's footsteps to be someone he would have liked, but I see now that wasn't the right person to follow."

When Gonzalez got the call that his son was placed in foster care it motivated him to straight up and gain custody.

"I showed him," he said. "I did everything I could. It was a struggle to stop drugs, but I did it for him. Then, my daughter came back into my life."

Gonzalez said he found religion and that helped him persevere.

"In 33 years I never opened a Bible until I got here," he said. "(God) put my son in my path for that reason -- to change me."

He said he was ashamed of the person he used to be, but that he was "proud" of the man he has become.

"God gave me that freedom through my kids," he said. "I'm here right now because of my past mistakes. I accept responsibility. I just want to return back to my family."

Carney asked him what his plans would be to avoid the gang life when he gets out and he said he intended to move out of Orange County. When asked how he would avoid gangs while in prison, Gonzalez said since he has renounced the gang and joined the Christians in prison, making him part of an "outcast" group that attends church services and Bible study.

"I've been safe so far," he said. "God is protecting me."

Staples then told Carney that he felt Gonzalez stood a better chance of rehabilitating himself the sooner he could rejoin his family.

"My concern is ... the longer he is separated from his son and daughter" the greater the risk he'll return to a life of crime, Staples said.

Carney emphasized how "in-person" hearings such as Monday's better inform judges and prosecutors. Carney, who grew critical of virtual hearings during the pandemic, said he was contemplating an 87-month prison term for Gonzalez before Monday's hearing.

"I wouldn't have gotten down to 48 months remotely or through video," Carney said.

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