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Deal ends retrial in gang case

Instead of taking a gang- related murder case to trial a second time in Stanislaus County Superior Court, a prosecutor on Tuesday cut a deal with Manuel Hernandez, settling on a manslaughter plea and a sentence of 16 years, four months in prison.

Hernandez, 27, of Modesto will be sentenced Oct. 26 along with co-defendant Robert Lopez, 19, of Modesto, who was convicted of killing 16-year-old Danny Morales of Atwater in an altercation at a taco truck on April 6, 2004, in south Modesto.

Hernandez took the witness stand during a seven-week trial this summer, saying Lopez was the shooter. Jurors deliber- ated for one week, then returned a split verdict in late July.

The jury said Lopez is guilty of murder, assault with a deadly weapon and committing a crime for the benefit of a gang. The jury said Hernandez is guilty of assault and gang charges, but could not reach a verdict on the murder charge.

Lopez faces 46 years to life. Hernandez must serve 85 percent of his sentence, or nearly 14 years, and will be segregated from other gang members because they don't look kindly on those they consider snitches.

"He's a marked man," Deputy District Attorney Thomas Brennan said.

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