Plea deal takes possible life sentence down to maybe getting out of prison next year

Sebastian Gonzalez.
Sebastian Gonzalez. ARCHIVE

A man who had faced life in prison for first-degree murder pleaded no contest Tuesday to voluntary manslaughter, an agreement which will speed up his release from behind bars.

Sebastian Andrew Gonzalez, 24, was charged with murder in 2015 after he was arrested in connection to the shooting death of 21-year-old Andrew Tristan. The shooting, which happened after a fight at a southeast Fresno party, also injured a 15-year-old boy.

Gonzalez was arrested about two weeks after the shooting. He was considered a Bulldog gang member and had prior history of domestic violence assault.

Gonzalez’s attorney, Margarita Martinez-Baly, said Wednesday that she and her client have always argued that Gonzalez was not the shooter who killed Tristan. The murder charge was hard to prove, Martinez-Baly said, and the case had already been dismissed once. And she said there had been inconsistent witness testimony during the trial.

In spite of the manslaughter conviction, Martinez-Baly said she still believes that Gonzalez was not the shooter.

Gonzalez faced a term of life in prison if he had been convicted of first-degree murder. When he’s sentenced on March 12, he’s expected to get a punishment of, at most, seven years in prison.

Though, because Gonzalez has already been serving time in Fresno County Jail since 2015, Martinez-Baly said he would only serve about a year and a half in prison before he’s released. Martinez-Baly said the expected sentence reduction gives Gonzalez hope at a second chance at life.

“He gets to see the light of day before he’s 30,” she said Wednesday.

Cresencio Rodriguez-Delgado: 559-441-6304, @cres_guez