Trial starts for 2 accused in shooting

Merced Sun Star || 11-Sep-2009

Livingston man says defendants retaliated after son quit gang

MERCED - Testimony began this week in the trial of two men accused of shooting a 54-year-old man near Livingston, allegedly because the victim’s son had dropped out of a gang.

One of the defendants is the victim’s own nephew.

Steven Magana, 25, and Timothy Coronado, 22, are charged with attempted murder and several enhancements tied to allegedly discharging a firearm and being members of a criminal street gang.

Merced County sheriff’s investigators believe the defendants and a third suspect, a 16-year-old juvenile who is being tried separately, went to the victim’s Westside Boulevard residence on March 9 at 10:20 p.m. and shot him four times.

The victim, who admits to being a former gang member himself, survived the incident. The identity of the victim has been withheld by the Sun-Star because of concerns about his safety.

Merced County District Attorney David Sandhaus said the victim didn’t identify the suspects at first because Coronado and the 16-year-old juvenile are his nephews — and he wanted to protect them. Sandhaus said the defendants are documented members of Livas, a Norteno criminal street gang based in the Livingston area.

On the flip side, defense attorneys Hayden Smith and Jeffrey Tenenbaum said their clients both deny committing the shooting, claiming they were never at the scene. Tenenbaum is representing Magana, while Smith is representing Coronado.

Jurors heard testimony from the victim on Thursday, who acknowledged he and his 26-year-old son had gone to Magana’s house before the shooting. There, a fight broke out between the victim’s son and the three men. The victim said his son was a Livas gang member who’d dropped out. “My son wanted to box them all and let them get theirs,” the man told jurors.

Later that night, the victim said Magana, who goes by the gang moniker “Snoopy,” Coronado and the juvenile came to his trailer. He testified to seeing the trio standing about 15 feet away, firing several shots at the trailer. Investigators said he was shot in the hip, stomach and arm. A bullet also grazed his face. “There’s no doubt in my mind it was them,” he said.

The victim admitted he purposefully withheld information from detectives, but later stepped forward after his son and a 4-year-old girl were shot two months later at a residence in Livingston. The man suspected that Coronado, Magana and the juvenile were responsible for that shooting, although they were never charged.

“I just decided to step up and say what really happened,” he said.

When asked about his criminal background, the victim acknowledged that he’d been in prison several times, primarily for several DUI convictions and violation of parole. The man also said he’d been a gang member in and out of prison, but has since “given his heart to God” and changed his ways.

Tenenbaum told jurors during his opening statement that Magana, his client, wasn’t at the scene when the 54-year-old victim was shot. He said the victim had decided to “throw in” Magana’s name when he talked to detectives.

Smith said there’s no physical evidence linking Coronado, his client, to the crime. Smith also said it was “pitch black” outside when the shooting happened, making it impossible for the victim to see the shooters. “He didn’t see who did it — that’s the bottom line,” Smith said.

Coronado and Magana face a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted. Both men remain in custody, in lieu of $1.4 million bail.

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