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Two teens get 50 to life in drive-by shooting; advocates protest sentence

More than two dozen youths and advocates gathered in front of the criminal courts building in downtown Los Angeles to support two young males who were sentenced today to 50 years to life in prison for a fatal drive-by shooting.

A jury convicted Steven Menendez, 17, and Jose Garcia, 19, of murder in July in the March 2007 death of 16-year-old Danny Saavedra.

Saavedra was playing basketball in the 500 block of 82nd Street in South Los Angeles when he was shot in what police described as a gang-related attack. Afterward, officers pursued a vehicle matching the description of the one used in the killing, and when Garcia and Menendez got out, they were arrested.

Both later said they were just passengers and identified the shooter as Noel Velasco, a 26-year-old member of the Street Villains gang. Velasco was never charged and was shot to death three months later.

Saavedra’s parents and siblings spoke at the sentencing and told prosecutors they considered the sentence appropriate, said Jane Robison, a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office.

“These were two admitted gang members who went into rival gang territory, and they drove around not once but twice, slowed down and shot and killed a 16-year-old boy who had no gang connection,” Robison said.

But supporters of Garcia and Menendez said they did not deserve such harsh sentences.

“My son has never been locked up before,” said Menendez’s mother, Maria Luisa Borrego, 34, of Downey. “I don’t think this is justice at all. It’s more like vengeance.”

Rachel Veerman coordinates a support group for Menendez and other parents whose children are in jail or detention. She said her own son narrowly escaped being charged as an adult after friends took his car and used it in a drive-by shooting.

She said her son’s lawyer persuaded a judge to keep the attempted murder case in Juvenile Court, and her son was ordered to spend two years in state detention. He is now a freshman at Santa Clara University.

“We’ve been seeing more and more of these outrageous sentences — it just doesn’t make sense,” Veerman said. “They should pay for what they did, but now they’re just throwing them and our tax dollars away.”

Some supporters considered today's sentences a partial victory: Garcia had faced life without parole. About 250 prisoners convicted for crimes committed when they were youths are serving such sentences statewide, according to Kim McGill, an organizer with the Inglewood-based Youth Justice Coalition.

McGill said her group supports proposals to revise such strict sentencing laws. The Fair Sentences for Youth Act, sponsored by state Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) and scheduled for consideration by the state Assembly later this year, would allow some youths sentenced to life without parole to qualify to have their sentences reconsidered and be released.

“They learn much more in the community about what it means to be a good human being than they do in prison,” McGill said.

-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske

Comments () | Archives (79)

Clem, I agree, they'll be out in 10 or 15 with all kinds of new knowledge from the guys inside. There needs to be a limit on these long sentences, once you get over a certain amount of years...automatic death sentence. Of course it wouldn't be carried out right away, you have to give time for appeals but it would save the law abing taxpayers Billions, YES, Billions of dollars. Three strikes and you get a life sentence should be changed to three strikes and you're out....with a death sentence. These guys NEVER learn, I'm talking about the ones with three strikes already, not the first timers. All of that money saved could be going toward education and improving infrastructure, like the freeways and renewable energy sources (wind, solar, geothermal). Those guys are old enough to know right from wrong so don't feel sorry for them.

These two "gang bangers" should have gotten the death sentence--they got off easy--way to easy--The dead boy is gone forever--I hope they spend all 50 years in jail---we do not need these people on our streets--at least in jail we are safe from them----YES--they got off easy.

This sentence is definitely not too harsh. Hello! They comitted MURDER. Maybe these kids mistakes will serve to keep others from doing the same.

Is that only time they could get?

Hell or jail,is what these two cowards deserve! What outstanding citizens troll around the streets looking for someone to murder.Their partner in crime; the one they say is the real shooter? Is serving his time in the prior location! You young guys should learn from others mistakes; 'do not bang'! There is no glory,or fame in the killing of others, for what? Nothing! Now they cry because they're getting 50+ in lock-up? Give me a break! You guys are real tough 'hombres',on the street. . .riding around with a biological 'pee-wee'shooter in your pants;that you have to make yourselves 'manly' by packing a hand-gun! Rot! You made your beds; now lie in it!

Too bad the three idiots didn't die in a car crash minutes after they committed the shooting, or better yet minutes before. These losers are the definition of incorrigible. Any sentence short of death is too light. Sound too harsh? Too bad.

Rachel Veerman seems to imply that "gee I didn't mean it" is and excuse. She and Kim McGill think the sentence is to harsh. Murder is about the harshest thing one individual can do to another. And to ride around hunting for some one to kill borders on animalistic.
One mother implys that since her son was never in jail before that he should be given a waiver this time. So how many murders does he need to particiate in before something is done.
These two can be visited by their mothers while in prison. Danny Saavedra's mother only gets to visit his grave. No, the sentence given is fair, society needs to be protected from these type people.

I must be missing something here...

Too light a sentence? For taking the life of another? This type of lack of accountability is exactly why these events too often, and sadly, make the headlines.

My heart goes out to the families involved.

Young men like these two make it hard on kids trying to do things with their life. Poeple come to america to live a free life.I grew up in LA and never joined a gang never seen a jail why because I did thing the right way. If the parent of these young men do not like the sentence then they should take their place because in fact if the parents were doing there job this young would be living. This young like alot of victems of crimes like this life was stolen so why should these young men get the chance that they stole from their victem.

“We’ve been seeing more and more of these outrageous sentences — it just doesn’t make sense,” ....IT MAKES PERFECT SENSE!
What doesnt make sense is overlooking the fact that an inncoent kid playing basketball was shot and killed FOR NO REASON! That was an "OUTRAGEOUS SENTENCE!"
Throw the book at them...Maybe this will act as a deterrent to future gang violence... One can only hope and pray

This message is for Kim McGill (who is mentioned in the article), an organizer with the Inglewood-based Youth Justice Coalition. Kim says “They learn much more in the community about what it means to be a good human being than they do in prison,” and exactly what have they learned so far in their community? That it's ok to be an accomplice in taking somebody else's life.

Johnny Hernandez post sums it up perfectly:

Do the crime do time. in life you have a choice take on what path to take. these two boys choose to be in a gang or associate themself with them. they had a choice to do right, insted they took someone life away that had no gang affiliation. the victum did not choose for his life to be taken away. at least the moms of the criminals can write to their love ones. the other moms son life is gone. i grew up in south LA on35th st their is no excuse to not rise up and achive your goal

"Otherwise, we need to enforce our immigration laws and crack down on the type of people allowed to come to America. "

And how exactly do you know that the parties involved aren't citizens?

I have a 17yr.son and I watch him very carefully. He has a curfew and when he leaves this house I know who hes with. I hung around a gang in my teenage yrs and I know how dangerous they can be just to prove something. Didnt the parents see how thier sons were dressing and walking and talking? Prevention should have started in the home.Its sad they have to be in prison but they are alive. my condolences to the mother of Danny Saavedra.

If you can't control your kids, this is the way they turn out. The sentence should be death by firing squad, No blindfold, So they can watch it coming. The people that are now immigrating to the USA do not have the same respect and morals that have been instilled into us. I just hope that these 2 do not get out until they have served the 50 years.

Guilty is the one that kills the cow as the one that holds it's legs. This is a good sentence, back in the days we wouldn't see kids doing hard time, maybe it's time now to start with a hard hand. They wanted to "act" like "man" by sitting behind a car and witnessing a murder done by another of their "friends" and not stop him, that tells you alot about them. Who cares if this two kids didn't have a prior criminal record, they were participating in a street school of violance that will end up giving them a diploma in murder in no more then 3 years. It was good that they are stop from graduating from this criminal school and sentence to prison. Man they wanted to become, man they should be in prison. The only thing I can say to this two youngsters is "MAN UP!" and take it, this is what you asked for, now that you see how serious it got, you want to run away from the issue". What type of gangsta were you trying to become? Any set that would of taken you in would of have a weeks as member. Good luck inside with all the serious Gangstas, can't wait till you run into the real deal inside. LOL!!!!!!!

Fifty years is a waste of taxpayer money. These two scumbags should just be hog tied and shot.

stop feeling sorry for those murders,they know what they were doing, they just didn't know who they were going to kill, like cowereds they just drive by and start shooting then off they go to hide, I thank god that they got them,and for that the parents of the boy who was murdered,they got justice for there son, and now those murders can be who they wanted to be in prison.

Yea.... Let's see if this can be tied to the 1986 amnesty push or some other illegal immigrant "let them be law" issue as discussed in the OCR this morning... If they don't want them to do their time in US prisons, then I say they can take them back SOB, (South of the Border), and let them live in the prisons there... If they are lucky enough to survive long enough to get to the prison... If you are in the US and take a life, then pay the price. If it is your child that did it and you for some reason believe that US law is some how unjust, then gather the remainder of your family and be gone with you as soon as you can flee...

You are not getting the full story here. They were not the shooters. They were two young boys in the car. One was 14 at the time, the other 16.

I knew the victim, Danny. He was a very positive kid with a lot of potential. While I will admit that he wasn't always an angel, he didn't deserve to have his life taken away from him by people who didn't have anything better to do then drive around looking for people to kill.

I have seen his family mourn his death. His mother will never be the same. These two young men deserve to be punished. I do not believe that the punishment is harsh enough. People believe that because they were underage, they should receive lighter sentences. Absolutely not! Let's get real. These kids weren't 8 or 9 years old. They weren't even 12 or 13. They were old enough to know the difference between right and wrong and they were old enough to know that if they shot somebody, that somebody could die. That's what they were looking for...they were looking for a rival to shoot. While Danny may not have been the one they were specifically looking for, he's the one who paid the ultimate price. Now his family is paying.

We live in a society that is always blaming others for our mistakes and our actions. I think that we need to start accepting responsibility for the things that we do. These guys knew what they were doing and they knew the risks. Now they should pay the consequences. It is wrong to blame their mistakes on their age.

life's a beach.....50 years for murder sounds fair to me....there in a gang on the streets, so they'll be in a gang in prison, bet in the next 50 years they kill some one else..

I'm deeply disturbed at what supporters believe to be an extreme penalty for killing an innocent bystander. If these supporters had their own child's life taken away by a gangbanger, I'm sure they wouldn't be singing the same tune. I know that if one of my children were killed, I would want justice. An offender should spend 50 years to life for a crime where they participated. The actual shooter should get the death penalty.

The sentence is too light. Gang related drive-by shootings are premeditated in the worst possible way. The plan is kill--apparently indiscriminately. That shows an utter and complete lack of regard for human life.

Unfortunately, the threat of incarceration is not a deterrent for many. Jail time isn't something many are afraid of.

Society is on a downward spiral. Something needs to change. Building more prisons isn't the answer.

I just don't know what is...

If you are a person of color the chances of your own kids or grandkids being sent to adult court are very high if you
don't beleive that visit any Juvenile Hall or YA theirs about 70% Hispanic 25% African american 5% white. Does that sound like justice? Adult time means exactly that
50 to Life means they have to serve 50 Years before they
may be eligible for parole not 10. Beleive me it can happen to anyone. If you live in La your family is not exempt unless you are white and maybe the worst your kid can get is Juvenile life for being a SEX offender!!!! From the moment your child leaves your house to school you do not know if he'll come back or if he'll make a bad choice and take a ride with a wrong person... we were all young and we would not dare do some of the things we did at 14 or 16 now. Kids don't measure consequences like we adult's do. Justice should be treating all Juveniles equally.

Let them out. They'll be dead in less than a year. And they deserve no less than death. Shut your mouth mommy, you're a failure as both a parent and a human being. Any filth being spewed from your mouth is nonsense. Do us a favor and shut both of your holes! Neither one of them has ever produced anything intelligent.

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