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17-year-old Calexico boy sentenced to six years in prison for stabbing youth during stolen bike dispute

May 31, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

A 17-year-old Calexico youth, tried and convicted as an adult in the stabbing of another youth, was sentenced in Imperial County Superior Court to six years in state prison on Wednesday.

Richard Soto will be remanded to the California Youth Authority for the next three months until he turns 18, when he will be moved to state prison to serve out his sentence.

During a nearly two-hour hearing Wednesday, Deputy District Attorney Lisa DiMaria argued Soto is a danger to society and should be removed from the streets.

She asked Superior Court Judge Joseph Zimmerman for a seven-year sentence.

The court-appointed attorney for Soto, Eric Beaudikofer, asked that his client be turned over to Turning Point, a Christian-based residential program.

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It was on Aug. 29 that Soto reportedly stabbed a youth in Calexico over a dispute related to a stolen bike.

In the days before the stabbing the underage victim, identified in court as Alfredo Barrientos, had accused Soto of stealing his bike.

On the night of the stabbing, the victim was walking his dog past a home where Soto and others were standing. At one point, Soto reportedly took the victim to the side, pulled out a knife and stabbed him just under the rib.

The victim survived the attack.

Soto was arrested and charged with attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon and a special allegation of causing great bodily harm.

Prior to the trial, Soto was bound over to Superior Court to stand trial as an adult.

His trial started on April 10 and ended two weeks later. A jury convicted him on the assault with a deadly weapon and special allegation charges. He was not convicted of attempted murder.

On Wednesday Zimmerman noted the one element unusual about the case was Soto's age.

As proceedings for Soto's sentencing started, the prosecution asked county probation officers and a teacher from the county's continuation school in Calexico that Soto had attended to detail Soto's past since he was 14.

That past includes charges of pushing his mother and an involvement with gangs and drug use.

One probation officer from juvenile hall noted Soto was involved in a fight in juvenile hall, at the time of his trial, in which he kicked another youth in the head after that youth had already laid face-down under the command of a probation officer.

The teacher said Soto was confrontational with staff and faced several suspensions from the continuation school before he was removed from that program.

Another probation official stated Soto had been removed from Rite of Passage, an educational program for troubled youth in Nevada.

Beaudikofer challenged the prosecution's case, stating each time Soto was removed from a program it was not for acts of violence, but simply because he would walk out of the program without permission.

He also pointed out Soto was getting good grades when he was removed from the Rite of Passage program.

Beaudikofer called to the stand Michael Johnson, founder of Turning Point.

Johnson told Zimmerman he had met with Soto and he thinks the youth could benefit from the residential program.

Johnson added if Soto is sent to state prison, once he gets out he likely will continue to be violent. He added there is a good chance that would not be the case if he was sent to Turning Point.

DiMaria pointed out Turning Point is not a security facility and there have been those in the program who have escaped.

DiMaria said Soto is too violent an individual to be given that chance. She said society would be better off if he was removed from the streets.

During Wednesday's hearing Soto was called to the stand. He said he wanted to attend Turning Point as a way to change his life.

However, he said he did not commit the crime for which he was convicted.

DiMaria questioned that if Soto is unwilling to admit to the crime, how could he benefit from Turning Point.

Zimmerman, in pronouncing the six-month prison term, told Soto his actions have consequences. He added he thinks the evidence that came out during the trial proved without reasonable doubt that Soto did stab the youth.

Zimmerman said Soto has "climbed up the ladder and gotten himself up to state prison material."

He added he thinks Soto has shown he not suitable for a probation program at this point.

Beaudikofer said the conviction and the sentencing will be appealed. That action must be taken within the next 60 days.

Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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