A verdict has been reached Wednesday morning in a months-long trial of two alleged Mexican drug gang members, a court clerk said.
Jurors who listened to months of testimony and viewed more than 600 exhibits in the high-profile trial returned mixed verdicts and rejected the prosecutors’ assertions that the defendants tortured their victims.
The two gang members, Jose Olivera Beritan and David Valencia, were found guilty of first degree murder as part of their gang operations, said Judge John S. Einhorn on Wednesday.
Beritan and Valencia are guilty in the murders of Cesar Uribe and Marc Anthony Leon. Beritan was also convicted in the murder of Ivan Lozano Váldez.
Mark Amador told jurors in his opening statement in February that the defendants belonged to a Mexican gang that broke away from a Tijuana cartel and brought its brutal methods of murder and kidnapping to the San Diego area around 2002.
The gang was known to dissolve their victims' corpses in vats of acid inside a San Diego home according to prosecutors.
Seventeen members of the alleged crew, known as Los Palillos (the Toothpicks in Spanish), were indicted after a two-year investigation.
Los Palillos consisted of U.S. and Mexican citizens who allegedly established themselves in Tijuana after the leader's brother was killed by the Arellano Felix Cartel.
Fearing their lives, members of the group fled to San Diego.
The crew then began trafficking methamphetamine and marijuana, and committed numerous violent crimes.
Some members of the ring were arrested in June of 2007, when law enforcement located a kidnapping victim being held at a home on Point Dume Court in Chula Vista.
FBI SWAT operations rescued the 32-year old kidnapping victim (a business man living in Chula Vista) and apprehended five kidnappers.
Two leaders of Los Palillos were convicted of kidnapping for ransom in December of 2008 and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole in January 2009.