17 years

Man who failed to withdraw plea in attempted murder trial gets 17 years

By Denise Nix Staff Writer

Posted: 04/09/2010 03:19:57 PM PDT

One of three men prosecuted for shooting at a grandmother in Gardena could not convince a judge to let him withdraw his no contest plea, and was sentenced to 17 years in prison.

  • Andrew Acosta’s attorney argued to Torrance Superior Court Judge James Brandlin that his 21-year-old client’s former lawyers botched the job.In a late hearing on Thursday, Acosta’s new attorney, Matthew Fletcher, called Acosta’s former lawyers to the witness stand to question them about their work.Otto Pena testified that, during his 14 years of practicing law, Acosta’s case was the first he handled involving an attempted murder charge.Pena admitted he did not interview any witnesses or hire an investigator.

    He also said he did not find any evidence that Acosta had the intent needed to support an attempted murder conviction, but allowed him to plead no contest to the charge anyway. A no contest plea is treated the same as a guilty plea in the criminal justice system.

    However, during questioning by

    Deputy District Attorney Christopher Hartman, Pena said he reviewed all the evidence, which included a taped confession by Acosta to the police about his involvement, and had drafted motions on Acosta’s behalf.Neither Pena nor his co-counsel, Daniel Revoredo, said they could recall some of the specifics about the case since two years had passed.

    But they both remembered that the decision to take the deal offered by prosecutors was Acosta’s.

    “Any decision he made, we would support him,” Revoredo testified.

    Acosta pleaded no contest to attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder in exchange for 17 years in prison.

    Acosta, along with Ruben Rizo and Nicholas Boligan, were charged in connection to the April 10, 2007, shooting in the 2600 block of Marine Avenue.

    The target was Vilma Delgado, the mother of Rizo’s former girlfriend, with whom he has a child. The child, who was four months old at the time, was in the car Delgado was driving when she was shot at.

    She was not hit by any rounds, but shattered glass caused significant injury to her eye.

    Rizo, 21, the gunman, pleaded no contest and is serving 32 years in prison.

    Boligan, 21, was acquitted by a jury earlier this year.

    In denying Acosta’s motion to withdraw the plea, Brandlin said he believed Acosta had “buyer’s remorse” after learning about Boligan’s acquittal.

    “You cannot withdraw a plea due to a change of heart,” Brandlin said, also finding that the previous attorneys did not do a sub-par job.

    Fletcher indicated he would appeal Brandlin’s decision.

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