Jesús Aguirre Comes Home!


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Jesús last week, in white at center. His heroic mom and dad to his rear and right. Wife Yolanda second from right.

At first, understandably, Jesús Aguirre Jr, tired of being in the public spotlight, tired of being the poster child for Obscene Over-Punishment of arguably Gang-related crimes, didn’t even want a new story written about him, as he begins to adjust to normal life back with his family in Buena Park after almost eight years in prison.  But that changed pretty quickly, as his dad started sending me all these new photos of his homecoming.

Yes, he popped up at his family’s place a couple Thursdays ago, a day before his dad was expecting him, soon after the Governor’s highly applauded commutation, which we and the Weekly reported on at the time, and now he’s applying to finish his college courses at Fullerton College.  His outrageous 2012 sentence – LIFE PLUS 25 YEARS in Pelican Bay for a 16-year old carrying a gun for a friend that was not even used fatally – was a colossal exemplar of a phase in the California “justice” system where any sort of gang involvement moved things into a zone beyond evil where no punishment was too harsh.  This blog used a rickety stack of ladders atop ladders to describe how DA Rackauckas’ man Brett Brian, along with hateful lying Buena Park cop James Woo, managed to give Jesús the sentence they gave him:

..​. And later, in 2014, while covering his retrial that brought his sentence down to a still-outrageous 17 years, we looked at young Jesús’ terrifying criminal record, bicycle tickets and all:

Teenaged Jesús running amok, as illustrated by “Güera”

… And hopefully now, his commutation will prove just as emblematic of the state’s turn against such extremism, such politics of fear, against being a Police State, as we continue our fight against Gang Injunctions, against Rampant Criminalization in General, and for Police Accountability.

What Went Right, Finally? Who Gets the Most Credit for Jesús going free?

#1. Young Jesús himself.  It would have been so easy, and safe, to have fallen right into the prison lifestyle up in Pelican Bay and the subsequent institutions he was sent to.  But as Jerry Brown wrote, he comported himself as the “model prisoner,” staying away from drugs, gangs, violence, earning his GED and beginning to take college courses in prison.  He “routinely received exceptional ratings from his work supervisors,” participated in Narcotics Anonymous, Alternatives to Violence, and “The Last Mile, a program that prepares inmates for re-entry into the community by teaching them computer coding and other business and technological skills,” and completed a vocational certificate in computer technology.  One of his instructors praised his “strong work ethic:   He carries himself well, gets his work done, and is always willing to help his classmates.”  Kind of sounds like the young Jesús I heard of before the 2010 incident.

#2.  Super Dad.  This guy, Jesús’ namesake father, as well as his mother Silvia, were EVERYWHERE for seven years, trying to get attention and justice for their son.  It’s hard to imagine anyone could have done more than these two to defend a railroaded son, but their efforts finally paid off.  Jesús Senior owns and runs that Spanish-language shop between St Boniface and Visser’s Florist that sells insurance, travel packages, does your taxes, anything else you can think of … and now he’ll have time to help us fight the Lincoln Widening!

#3. Boys and Men of Color, as well as the various Los Amigos groups of Orange County, are the organizations that old Jesús as well as the Governor give the most credit to for helping focus attention on this injustice, and giving the family moral support.  This is where we also mention the more than 5,000 people who signed the petition asking the Governor for this commutation.

#4.  California Voters, and Governor Jerry Brown himself.  My first thought, when the ten-year gang enhancement went up in smoke, was “this must be partly due to last year’s Prop 57,” but as Jesus Sr. told me, “No, Prop 57 wasn’t able to help – the case had already been appealed and Prop 57 doesn’t apply to cases that have been appealed.”  Oh.  But still.  In a way, California voters opining in a landslide (in an initiative funded by George Soros LOL) that long gang enhancements were BS had to have been in the back of Jerry’s mind, giving him political space to sign that document.

#5.  This will be hard to type, as who really wants to thank the DA who originally engineered this travesty, but according to Jesús’ retrial defense attorney in 2014, Brett Brian offered no objection to bringing the sentence way down from life plus 25 years to 7 years plus 10 year enhancement – WAY LESS THAN THE JUDGE WANTED TO GIVE HIM THAT DAY.  Said the defense attorney: “Brian 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…. 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.”  And at the end of the trial, with defense’s permission, Brian sat down by Jesús, put his hand on his shoulder, and spoke quietly to him, what looked like fatherly advice.  And that ruling got us halfway to where we are now.  At the time I thought, MAYBE my original story, read by 17,000 and casting Brian and Woo as the villains, had SOMETHING to do with changing Brian’s heart?

One little quibble: All accounts of the shooting, from the Governor’s to the Weekly’s, refer to it as “gang-related,” but I don’t think that is accurate.  Sure, both the shooter and the guy Ramon who got shot were in gangs, but they were friendly, allied gangs (Jesús couldn’t figure out WHAT was going on) and it seemed to have more to do with a fight over Ramon’s sister.

But it doesn’t matter that much, Jesús is free, and a world of possibilities awaits him.  Which brings up one last observation:  The Democratic politician running for County Supervisor in the North OC district where both Jesús and I live – a dude called Joe Kerr, no joke – seems to be using as one of his main qualifications the fact that in 2012 he “received numerous awards and recognitions for helping to save the life of a baby who was drowning and had stopped breathing in a swimming pool.”  Well, hey – Jesús ALSO saved the life of a kid who was drowning in a swimming pool once!  Maybe Jesús should be Supervisor instead.  Just saying…


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.