Gang member sentenced to life in racially motivated killing of bowling alley worker
A 25-year-old Latino gang member convicted in the racially motivated gang murder of a black Canoga Park bowling alley employee was sentenced Thursday to life in prison without parole.
Martin Sotelo, a member of the Canoga Park Alabama gang, was sentenced in connection with the fatal drive-by shooting of James Shamp. Van Nuys Superior Court Judge Martin Herscovitz also ordered Sotelo to pay $15,916 in restitution for the burial of his victim and mental health costs of the victim's family.
A jury in April found Sotelo guilty of first-degree murder with two special circumstance allegations — murder due to the victim's race and murder in a drive-by shooting. He was the last of four defendants to face charges in the case. He was also found guilty on other allegations, including evading officers after the shooting and second-degree robbery related to a separate incident. The additional charges resulted in a sentence of 40 years to life.
Sotelo's lawyers maintained that their client harbored no prejudice against blacks and had no intention of committing a hate killing on Dec. 22, 2008, the night of the shooting. But prosecutors said Sotelo was seeking bragging rights and trying to live up to his gang moniker, "Outlaw," when he willfully participated in the murder.
Shamp, 48, a married father of two, was taking out the trash at the Canoga Bowl when Latino gang members pulled up in a car and fired the shots, prosecutors said. Sotelo was behind the wheel.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Daniel Akemon of the Hardcore Gang Division said Sotelo helped fellow gang member Richard Bordelon gun down Shamp "in cold blood because of the color of his skin, in a display of senseless violence and a complete disregard for human life."
Akemon argued that Sotelo had stopped the vehicle so Bordelon could take aim like a sniper. Bordelon's bullet struck Shamp "right through the heart," Akemon said.
In March 2010, Herscovitz sentenced Bordelon to life in prison without the possibility of parole, plus 47 years to life, after he admitted being the gunman. Bordelon was also ordered to pay $14,386 in restitution. A juvenile defendant, who was 15 at the time, also reached a deal with prosecutors and was sentenced on a juvenile conspiracy charge.
A third defendant, Orlando Perez, a 25-year-old Latino, pleaded no contest to a charge of accessory after the fact to murder and was sentenced to three years and four months in state prison Akemon told jurors in closing arguments earlier this week that Sotelo and Bordelon were out that December evening looking to earn their respective nicknames of "Outlaw" and "Psycho."
-- Richard Winton
Photo: Canoga Park Alabama gang member Martin Sotelo, right, with attorney Robert Schwartz, listens as Judge Martin Herscovitz reads a letter from Sotelo's victim's wife in a Van Nuys courtroom Thursday. Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times