EC man accused in six killings to be tried separately in Imperial Gangsters racketeering case
BY TERESA AUCH SCHULTZ firstname.lastname@example.org September 10, 2013 9:28PM
Updated: October 12, 2013 6:32AM
An East Chicago man who could face the death penalty if he is convicted of killing up to six people will be tried separately from his co-defendants in the Imperial Gangsters racketeering case, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.
The ruling came Tuesday, the same day one of those co-defendants, Julius Solis, 23, of East Chicago, agreed to plead guilty to racketeering and gun charges.
That means just eight defendants will go to trial on Oct. 21 in U.S. District Court in Hammond. U.S. District Judge Philip Simon granted Juan Briseno’s request to delay his trial until April 7 but ordered that he would not delay the trial for the rest of the defendants.
“That date is firm,” Simon wrote.
Simon said in his ruling that he agreed with several of Briseno’s arguments, including that a jury could likely be prejudiced against him were they to see he was the only one of the nine defendants to face the death penalty.
A jury could also become tired of from hearing a case with so many defendants and would suffer from “jury fatigue” once they got to the sentencing phase, which only Briseno would go through if found guilty.
Federal attorneys claim Briseno and his co-defendants terrorized East Chicago neighborhoods during the past decade to sell hundreds of pounds of marijuana and cocaine. The gang is charged with murdering 13 people.
Solis is the 14th defendant to plead guilty. He faces up to 20 years on the racketeering count and a consecutive five years on charges of using a gun during a crime of violence. However, the agreement calls for a binding sentence of 192 months in prison. If Simon does not accept that sentence, Solis will have the opportunity to withdraw his plea of guilty.
Solis is already serving a 30-year sentence in the Indiana Department of Corrections after he was convicted in Lake County in 2011 of voluntary manslaughter in the homicide of Alonzo Cavazos in May 2009.
The agreement calls for Solis’ sentence in the federal case to run concurrent to the state case.
His change-of-plea hearing is set for Thursday morning.