Dec. 1-Two defendants in the MS-13 gang murder trial were sentenced to more than two decades in prison after pleading guilty to charges related to a series of killings in the Santa Maria Valley from 2013 to 2016.
Jose Juan Sanchez Torres and Olvin Serrano each pleaded guilty to two charges of attempted murder and were sentenced to 24 years and eight months in state prison on Nov. 15 and Nov. 19, respectively, according to Santa Barbara County Superior Court records.
Both defendants each received more than a dozen charges, including for murder, gang conspiracy and firearms offenses following their arrests in a March 2016 gang sweep led by the Santa Maria Police Department.
Additionally, Torres admitted to an enhancement of committing a gang shooting from a vehicle. All other charges were dismissed in the "furtherance of justice," according to court records.
Torres and Serrano each received credit for 2,088 days of time served since their arrests in 2016 and 313 good behavior credits.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Kelly Duncan, who is prosecuting the second group, said she could not provide a comment since the case is still ongoing.
Attorneys Bill Davis and Jeff Chambliss and who represent Serrano and Torres, respectively, did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment.
A Superior Court judge on Nov. 17, 2017, issued a gag order that prohibits officials involved in the case from providing public comment outside what is said in open court.
Charges may be dismissed in the "furtherance of justice" under Penal Code 1385, which may be brought by a motion from the judge or the prosecuting attorney.
The two were among five defendants in a group being tried in Santa Barbara. The group now includes Jose Balmore Saravia Lainez, Jose Ricardo Saravia Lainez, Jose Narciso Escobar Hernandez and is in jury selection.
A second group includes Marcos Manuel Sanchez Torres, Juan Carlos Lozano Membreno, Traquilino Robles Morales, Juan Carlos Urbina Serrano and Luis German Mejia Orellana and is currently in trial in Santa Maria. Opening arguments began Nov. 16.
Ten defendants originally formed one trial group, until Superior Court Judge John McGregor split them into two groups with five defendants each on Dec. 20, 2019, after ruling their rights to a fair trial would be violated if they were all tried together in the same courtroom, along with their attorneys and translators.
The remaining eight defendants are charged with various crimes that involve murder and gang conspiracy. Each have pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The Santa Maria trial is scheduled to resume at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday in Department 8 of Superior Court, records show.