The shooter convicted of killing a 22-year-old man eating at a south Modesto taco stand was sentenced to 45 years to life Friday in Stanislaus County Superior Court.
Jurors found José Barajas, 22, guilty of second-degree murder in February for what police called a “senseless act of violence” against Kevin Argueta in August 2007.
A judge also handed down sentences Friday to two other men - Steven Anthony Pack and Nicolas Castaneda. Those men got sentences of 19 years to life and nearly 21 years to life, respectively.
The three dodged the more serious charge of first-degree murder after 2½ months of testimony.
Judge Timothy Salter declared a mistrial on several felony charges and enhancements after jurors could not reach a verdict.
According to prosecutors:
Argueta was at a taco truck in the 1600 block of Crows Landing Road with friends just before 2 a.m. Aug. 19, 2007.
The three men approached Argueta and his friends, called them derogatory nicknames reserved for rival gang members and cussed at them. As the defendants drove away, Barajas, who admitted on the stand he was the shooter, shot at Argueta and his friends at least twice from the car’s back seat.
Deputy District Attorney Shawn Bessey said Argueta had no gang ties.
A defense attorney for Castaneda, suspected of being the getaway driver, said Castaneda was trying to get the others away from the fight.
Attorney Bill Miller said he believed surveillance video evidence showed Argueta and his friends were the aggressors in the argument.
Bee staff writer Merrill Balassone can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2337.