MODESTO — A judge on Thursday confirmed a trial start June 17 for two teenagers accused of murder in the brazen gang-related shooting death of a 19-year-old man two years ago in Modesto's airport neighborhood.
There's a possibility, however, that the trial will not start as scheduled because one of the defendants might need a new attorney soon.
Gene Trimble, Guillermo Rivera's defense attorney, told the judge Thursday that he intends to file a motion to withdraw from the murder case. If Trimble is allowed to withdraw, a newly appointed attorney for Rivera can then ask the judge to delay the trial to get up to speed on the case.
The shooting occurred about 11:30 a.m. Jan. 21, 2011. Juvenal Rodriguez of Modesto and a friend were walking in the 1400 block of Monterey Avenue near Orville Wright Elementary School when shots were fired at them. Rodriguez was struck and killed, and his friend escaped uninjured.
Along with the murder charge, Rivera and Raul Sanchez, both 19, must stand trial on charges of attempted murder and participating in a criminal street gang. They were minors when the shooting occurred but are being prosecuted as adults.
Co-defendant Alessandra Sanchez must stand trial, accused of dissuading a witness and participating in a criminal street gang in connection with the 2011 shooting.
Rivera and Raul Sanchez were in a car when they spotted Rodriguez. A Modesto police gang investigator testified in the preliminary hearing last year that Rodriguez was a Sureño gang member walking in a neighborhood considered to be rival Norteño gang turf.
The investigator said in court that Rivera was a Norteño who felt disrespected seeing an enemy in his neighborhood. Authorities say Rivera and Sanchez got out of the car, and Rivera fired a gun at the victims.
The gang investigator testified that Alessandra Sanchez was in the car when the shooting occurred and threatened Rodriguez's friend to prevent him from talking to police about the shooting. He also said the three defendants are Norteño gang members.
The three defendants briefly appeared in court Thursday. Alessandra Sanchez is Raul Sanchez's sister and was Rivera's girlfriend. She is free on bail; the two other defendants remain in custody.
The judge scheduled the defendants to return May 9 for another pretrial hearing in Stanislaus County Superior Court.
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2394.