The Terrifying Criminal History of Jesús Aguirre. UPDATE – 11 more years.


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Tomorrow morning – Friday morning – 21-year old Jesus Aguirre will finally have his re-sentencing hearing, having had his life sentence (plus 25 years) reversed by a Court of Appeals who determined that his counsel was incompetent for not pointing out that the sentence was probably cruel and unusual (for a juvenile) under the California Constitution.  We’re hoping he gets let out with time served, so he can start his young life again.

Let’s go over what he did to get life in prison (most of it so far in hardcore Pelican Bay.)  Over four years ago, when he was still 16, he toted a gun loaded with birdshot (which is only fatal at close range) and then handed it to his friend Martin Solorio, who went on to have an altercation with one Ramon Magaña.  Martin then shot Ramon a couple of times from behind, from “a couple of cars’ lengths away,” to the surprise and confusion of Jesús, who had thought Ramon was a friend.  Turns out there was some romantic dispute between Martin and Ramon over Ramon’s sister which Jesús was unaware of – the DA lied when he said it was gang-related.  Ramon suffered skin lesions which healed, and never pressed charges;  and charges have never been filed on the actual shooter Martin.  The same surreptitious jailhouse recording that nailed Jesús for carrying the gun also show the daffy kid to have been confused as to why Martin would shoot Ramon – so much for intent, you would think.

So – you would ALSO think, very dumb, dangerous, irresponsible thing for a 16-year old to do, to carry around a loaded gun for a friend and then hand it to him without knowing what that friend was gonna do with it, right?  Sounds like a 16-year old accessory to assault with a deadly weapon, maybe two years in jail, 4 or 5 at tops, to teach him a stern lesson.  Pero no, “accomplished veteran prosecutor” Brett Brian managed to get LIFE PLUS in Pelican Bay for the young man.

In an effort to understand and explain how the prosecution managed that feat, when I wrote about the case last year I created this graphic:

Yes, the subordinate of Tony Rackauckas, an ultra-political DA much less interested in pursuing justice than in impressing Orange County voters with how amazingly tough he can be on gang members (or accused gang members), pulled off an amazing life sentence by doing all of the above to young Jesús Aguirre.  Today, on the eve of his re-sentencing, I’d like to look at what I sardonically call his “Terrifying Criminal History” before the March 2010 incident.

I’ve been in possession, for a while, of a pretty fat file of Jesús’ “criminal history” pre-March 2010, which the prosecutor used to convince the jury what an irredeemable menace the kid was (and I’ll try to upload it all here as the day goes on.)  But I really wonder if the jury or judge actually looked at this file.  It is laughable.  Apparently Jesús’ criminal history consists of bicycle tickets – riding on the wrong side of the street, letting a girl ride on his handlebars (hence the above cartoon by his supporter Guera Coppolino) … um, having a cigarette lighter which apparently isn’t allowed for minors in Buena Park, and dozens of pages of his being seen hanging out with friends and neighbors who are accused gang members – that comprises the “field reports” which prove his gang membership.  Not that any of that hanging out was illegal, as it’s not a gang injunction neighborhood and he wasn’t on probation for anything.

The second most serious case was writing on a telephone pole in La Palma in 2008 when he was 14 – IN CHALK.  As his father Jesús Sr. relates:

He wasn’t sent to court, he wasn’t fined.  They called us to pick him up at the police station.  The police explained what happened and told us not to worry as it was nothing serious but that he’d be put on informal probation to send him to a program to keep him out of trouble.  We agreed and signed the paperwork without knowing it would ultimately harm him as he had no previous activities or record to justify putting him on informal probation.  [And he completed community service for this as well, and the case was dismissed.]

By far the most serious incident before 2010  was his tagging along on a JOYRIDE with a couple other 14 and 15-year olds in 2009, in a car his friend took from a neighbor and brought right back.  He didn’t go to court for that either, the owner didn’t press charges, and the case was dismissed. 

These two incidents (and a whole lot of, literally, nothing) from over two years earlier was enough to change a few-year sentence for accessory to assault as a kid into a life sentence for attempted murder as an adult?

The prosecution must have realized how ridiculous that was, because they then went ahead and included a 24-page report on a 2009 robbery that Jesús had nothing to do with, was never accused of, and was provably miles away from.  You might wonder, as I do, what sort of defense attorney – what sort of judge – would allow that.  It must have been a real show, and it did impress the jury with how bad and scary gang-type people from Buena Park can be, and it did the trick.

WOO. BIG MAN WOO. And “The Yak” yakkin’ it up. Two dirty Buena Park cops and tireless persecutors of Jesús and many others. Both now disciplined themselves, although we can only guess why.

As I pore through all these police records of a few years ago, a few names keep popping up:  the notorious bully James Woo, who told numerous witnesses that he’d make sure Jesús “either got killed or spent his life in prison,” and lied on the stand that he had arrested Jesús “five times” when it’d been only once … and the giant buffoonish Stephen “the Yak” Yakubovsky who achieved permanent infamy with his 2011 raid on Paul Lucas and pathetic falsified police report after.  And I think it’s worth mentioning (even though, thanks to the Police Officer’s Bill of Rights, we can’t know the reasons) that Woo has since been demoted from detective to patrol officer and the Yak has since been removed from the force.  I do hope defense counsel, if she thinks it would be helpful, brings that up.

During his years of incarceration, Jesús, always hoping for the best, has got his GED and is ready for college. He hopes to  follow the footsteps of his sister, a doctoral student at Stanford, and also get back to playing the sports he always loved.  The Orange Juice Blog hopes for good news tomorrow!

Only a few of the trophies that the champion swimmer and baseball pitcher (and honor student) won in his youth. Have I mentioned that he once saved another kid’s life from drowning?

UPDATE Friday morning – 11 more years.  🙁

It turned out to be Judge Froeberg’s last day before retirement, and we felt optimistic when he was surprisingly lenient on his first case, before disappearing for an hour or two to celebrate his last day with his co-workers.  But according to Jesús’ attorney the Judge was fully intending on insisting on 32 years-to-life for him; and it was only the idea of “accomplished veteran prosecutor Brett Brian” to throw out all charges but two leaving him with 7 + 10 years = 17 years, minus time served, = about 11 years, meaning he’ll be out around 2025. 

I suppose this was somewhere in between as bad as it could have been and as good as it could have been.   Some of the family was crying, some looked relieved.  The defense attorney, defending herself to querulous family members, says “This is unheard of, to get so much time off for a violent gang crime.  The bailiff and court reporter both said they’ve NEVER SEEN ANYTHING LIKE IT.  And it’s all thanks to a DA (Brian) who decided he wanted to be reasonable and generous.” 

“But …” I interjected, “this is the same DA who threw in all that irrelevant garbage to get him life in the first place.”  “Be that as it may.  He was incredibly generous today, and that will not be good for his career, here in Orange County, to agree to taking away a life sentence from a gang member.”  (I wondered silently if our coverage, always mentioning Brian’s name, had anything to do with his relenting, and she continued.)  “That’s why I didn’t want any press here today.  He’s not going to want his superiors paying too close attention to this.”

“But the deal is final, can’t be changed, right?”  “Right, it’s final.  I’m sorry, who am I talking to?”  “I’m Vern.  Friend of the family.”  Well, thank you, I suppose, Mr. Brian, if indeed you were more generous than you and your peers are expected to be.  Jesús is now studious looking with spectacles, and seemed generally relieved to no longer be facing life.  With defense’s permission, Brian came over and spoke quietly with Jesús for a few minutes, apparently words of encouragement.  

We don’t know where they’ll send him next, hopefully not too far for his family to visit.  But for all Moxley’s glee that Jesús had been in Pelican Bay, “the most dangerous, miserable, blablabla place in California,” it turns out that Pelican Bay also has a mellow lower-security wing which is where Jesús actually was.  Now let’s all write him once a month for the next eleven years, and buy him some books.  I’ll put up his address as soon as I know where he’s going.

Update 2

Here is the young man’s address for the foreseeable future, he would love to hear from all of you:


Jesus A. Aguirre #AL2694
PBSP A-3-115
PO Box 7500
Crescent City CA 95532

Update July 2015 – new address:

Jesús A. Aguirre #AL2694
C-2 204
PO Box 2210
Susanville CA 96127


About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.