Reedley gang member found guilty of 2 murders, 1 murder try

The Fresno BeeJune 25, 2014 

A Reedley gang member will spend life behind bars after a jury convicted him Wednesday in Fresno County Superior Court of two murders and one attempted murder for the benefit or at the direction of a criminal street gang.

Ramanjit Hundal, 29, showed no reaction when the verdicts were announced.

His attorney, Katherine Hart, however, had strong words for the gang that tried to kill Hundal in court two years ago.

"He squandered his youth, he squandered his life, for the sake of a vicious gang that discarded him as soon as he was no longer useful to the gang," Hart said.

The jury of eight women and four men deliberated over two days before finding him guilty of first-degree murder in the January 2009 shooting death of Jose Pacheco, 30, and in the September 2010 shooting death Juan Negrete, 33.

Jurors also found him guilty of five other felony charges, including attempted murder, drive-by shooting, and street terrorism.

Hundal faces life in prison without parole when he is sentenced on Sept. 10.

The trial in Judge James Petrucelli's courtroom was conducted under heavy security. A key witness was police informant Cesar Garcia, a former high-ranking member of the Reedley street gang that Hundal belonged to before one of Hundal's co-defendants tried to kill him with a razor blade to his neck during jury selection in August 2012.

Because of the incident, Hundal was tried alone.

The Reedley gang identifies itself with the larger Norteño gang. Garcia's secret recordings of the gang on behalf of police have led to the convictions of about a dozen people in connection with several killings in the Reedley area, authorities said.

In Hundal's six-week trial, Garcia, who is in a witness protection program, as well as three other gang associates who took plea deals, testified against him.

Negrete was killed outside his home on Jefferson Street in Reedley on Sept. 12, 2010. Pacheco also was killed in front of his home in the 1300 block of North Pecan Avenue on the night of Jan. 9, 2009.

During the trial, prosecutor William Lacy told jurors that Garcia secretly recorded Hundal as he talked about Pacheco's slaying. And in a police interview, Hundal admitted to being in the car when Pacheco was shot and being the lookout when Negrete was killed, Lacy said.

Hart, however, told the jury that Hundal might have been in the gang, but never quite fit in. "He was an outcast, a scapegoat," she said, noting Hundal's ancestry is from India while the gang was predominantly Hispanic.

Outside court, Hart said her client "will bear witness the rest of his life to the retaliatory vengeance of this gang in the form of a large scar on his neck that was carved by a razor blade from a former co-defendant two years ago."

She added: "We should all do everything we can to arrest the social blight and emotional upheaval caused by terrorist street gangs."

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6434, or @beecourts on Twitter.

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