MURRIETA, Calif. -- With their trial poised to begin, two teenage gang members Monday admitted their involvement in a non-injury drive-by shooting that targeted a French Valley boy in his home.
Mica Deshawn Caruso and Davi Lechaz Young, both now 18, were underage at the time of the April 11, 2007, shooting, in which they charged in adult court with firing at an inhabited dwelling, along with sentence-enhancing gang-and gun-related allegations.
"Everything is true," Caruso told Riverside County Superior Court Judge F. Paul Dickerson when he entered his guilty plea.
Both defendants face maximum sentences of 23 years to life in state prison when they go back before the judge on Feb. 20. Their attorneys plan to ask for probation, as at least one other defendant in the case has received.
A pre-plea report prepared by the county Probation Department recommends probation, the defense attorneys said, but it is up to the judge to decide.
Three other defendants previously pleaded guilty to shooting at an inhabited dwelling and were sentenced to jail time or probation, according to court records.
The actual shooter, Michael Anthony Hughes, who was 18 at the time of the crime, received probation, a development that did not sit well with the District Attorney's Office, which is appealing his sentence.
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Members of two juries waited outside as attorneys for the two young men explained and help them fill out the plea forms, then learned they would be dismissed because the case had settled.
"I'm sure some of you are ecstatic," Dickerson told jurors as he discharged them.
"This was not a negotiated plea bargain with the people," the judge told the panelists, adding that the men's sentences will be at the discretion of the court.
Defense attorney Sara Jewett, who represents Caruso, said her client had been trying to admit his guilt since November, but no judge would accept his plea without a pre-plea report.
Her colleague, Karen Lockhart, originally wanted to move to trial on behalf of her client, Young, and advised the defendant prior to jury selection not to agree to a continuance while the report was being prepared.
The juries were both picked before the Christmas holidays and told to return Monday morning.
"They announced readiness for trial," Deputy District Attorney Sam Kaloustian said of both attorneys.
"If these guys were 26 years old, we wouldn't be talking about this (a plea resolution)," Kaloustian added. "I never thought the judge would accept the plea the day of trial."
The defendants were both juveniles when the shooting occurred and the gang allegation adds a life enhancement to their sentence.
"These guys loaded the gun, handed (Hughes) the gun," Kaloustian said outside court. "They wore ski masks."
He added that Caruso and Young were members of a Los Angeles-based gang and were under the impression that the 17-year-old victim was a member of a rival gang.
The defendants were riding in a car from which shots were fired at a home in the 32000 block of Geranium Street as the 17-year-old target inside looked out a front window.
The boy had noticed a maroon sedan cruising slowly in front of his home. As the car passed, several shots were fired at the residence.
Sheriff's deputies patrolling the area, just outside Murrieta, later stopped a car matching the description of the suspect vehicle and found four people inside, all dressed in gang attire. The fifth defendant was arrested later that week.