LOS BANOS - Footage from video surveillance cameras could play a role in
the case against five defendants accused of killing two members of the
Mongols biker gang outside a Los Banos nightclub last summer.
They made a brief appearance in court Wednesday in the double homicide case.
Twin brothers Armando and Mando Lopez, 22; along with Francisco Esquivel,
21; Joe Castillo, 26; and Isaac Bermea, 19, each face two counts of murder
with gang enhancements in the deaths of brothers Angel Rodriguez, 30,
and Ruben Sanchez, 34. Defense attorneys will meet with their clients
Friday in court to review the surveillance footage, shot from security
cameras at Club Azul the night of the murders. The cameras were in several
locations on the club’s patio and inside the building.
Attorneys haven’t elaborated about what the footage shows.
Judge Brian McCabe on Wednesday postponed the preliminary hearing in the
case until Dec. 6, and the hearing is expected to take several days. Tom
Pfeiff, Mando Lopez’s attorney, said a status conference is scheduled
for Sept. 28, to determine whether defense attorneys can negotiate plea
agreements with the prosecution.
The five defendants are accused of killing Rodriguez and Sanchez during
the early hours of Aug. 7, 2011, in the 500 block of I Street in an alleyway
near Club Azul.
Authorities claim the defendants are members of the Norteño criminal
Deputy District Attorney David Elgin is prosecuting the case.
Jeffrey Tenenbaum is representing Armando Lopez; William A. Davis is representing Esquivel;
David Capron is representing Castillo; and Chris Loethen is representing Bermea.
Tenenbaum said his client’s involvement appears to be minimal, if
any. “(Armando Lopez) looks forward to his day in court,” he said.
Meanwhile, Davis, Esquivel’s attorney, expressed doubt about the
video footage, saying, “It gives us an overview, but it’s
Loethen said the case is serious and complex. He and his client, Bermea,
have reviewed the evidence that has been collected in the case, including
the surveillance video. “He has consistently maintained his innocence
and we are prepared to move forward,” he said.
Pfeiff, who is representing Mando Lopez, said evidence is questionable.
The cameras, which are located in several different places, record still
images about every five seconds, making it hard to follow, he said. “None
of them are aimed at the exact places where everything is going on,”
he said. “It’s really questionable what happened that night.”
The Lopez brothers were taken into custody by the U.S. Marshals Service
in Las Cruces, N.M., months after the double homicide.
Days later, the three other defendants were in custody. Castillo was arrested
in San Jose by the U.S. Marshals Service. Esquivel turned himself in at
the Los Banos Police Department and Bermea was already in custody on probation