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Friday, June 21, 2024 | Back issues
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Gang Member Loses Bid to Have Sentences Tossed

RICHMOND, Va. (CN) - A gang member serving two consecutive life sentences for conspiracy to commit murder to raise his standing in the organization lost his bid to have those sentences thrown out.

Rafael Parada-Mendoza aka "Cheve," a member of the MS-13 gang, was convicted of conspiring with others in the murder of one rival gang member and the attempted murder of another.

Parada-Mendoza and his co-defendants were also charged with conspiring to distribute cocaine.

After a trial, a jury found Parada-Mendoza guilty on all counts, and in October 21, 2009, he received two consecutive life sentences, plus 360 months.

The 4th Circuit later affirmed the sentence, but on May 13, 2013, Parada-Mendoza nevertheless filed a petition to vacate, seeking relief based on alleged ineffective assistance of counsel and several purported lapses on the part of the court and federal prosecutors.

But U.S. District Judge Laim O'Grady found that none of Parada-Mendoza's claims withstood scrutiny.

For example, he said that while Parada-Mendoza told his attorney that he was willing to sign a plea deal, he was unwilling to do any of the things -- including providing information on fellow gang members -- that would warrant such an agreement.

"Because Petitioner has failed to allege that he was actually offered a plea on terms he would accept, according to his own admissions, defense counsel was not objectively unreasonable for failing to secure him a favorable plea," Judge O'Grady said.

As for Parada-Mendoza's contentions, the judge found the gang-member "merely recites the case law, one of which would provide him an avenue for relief."

MS-13, a violent street gang with roots in Central America and Los Angeles, has a high concentration of members in Northern Virginia.

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