San Antonio judge hands ex-Bandido-turned-witness probation in killing
A former member of the Bandidos in San Antonio was sentenced to five years’ probation Friday for his role in the club’s racketeering conspiracy, including helping plan a murder 16 years ago.
“This may be, and I think it is, the first time that I ever awarded a probated sentence to someone engaged in activity leading up to a murder,” U.S. District Judge David Ezra said after he sentenced Andrew Gomez, 52.
Gomez pleaded guilty in 2016 to conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering for his role in the death of Robert Lara, who was lured to a rest area in January 2002 south of San Antonio, where other Bandidos shot him over the killing of Bandido Javier Negrete at a San Antonio pool hall in late 2001.
Gomez faced a maximum of 10 years in prison, but prosecutors filed a motion asking Ezra for leniency.
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It was that recommendation that helped persuade Ezra to impose the lesser sentence. He said he also was swayed because Gomez wasn’t the shooter and he’s turning his life around.
“I had to get over some of my own views in order to come to the conclusion that it was the right thing to do,” the judge said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Fuchs said Gomez was important in solving the cold case and gave investigators a first-hand account of the drug-dealing and other crimes involving the Bandidos, including the extortion of ex-members like Gomez, who was violently kicked out of the club in 2005.
After he was kicked out, Gomez said, he and his family were subjected to shooting attempts and assaults. At one point, one of the Bandidos held a gun to his son’s head.
Fuchs said Gomez was approached by the government more than 10 years after he had been kicked out and was no longer involved in criminal activity.
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“We approached him and he pretty quickly agreed to cooperate and gave us confirmation of what we thought what happened, and helped us with other pieces of the puzzle,” Fuchs said. “It really gave us the ability to charge those who had pulled the trigger and those who gave the orders.”
Gomez is the last ex-Bandido from San Antonio to be sentenced after testifying in this spring’s three-month trial of the Bandidos’ two former top leaders, national president Jeffrey Fay Pike, 63, of Conroe, and John Xavier Portillo, 59, of San Antonio. Ezra sentenced the pair two weeks ago to life in prison without parole.
Gomez’s lawyer, Mike McCrum, said Gomez turned his life around and “demonstrated in the last 10 years that his chances of recidivism are frankly, zero.”
Gomez, who was vice president of the Southwest San Antonio chapter under Portillo in 2002 and went by the nickname “Corky,” apologized to his family. He also apologized for his role in taking Lara’s life. He said he questioned the Bandidos’ tactics during his membership and was beaten severely during a motorcycle run in New Mexico when he was kicked out.
“I confronted Mr. Portillo because I disagreed on his methods...in organized crime and how they did things,” Gomez told the judge. “They had been given orders to assassinate me. They did not succeed, but I was hospitalized in New Mexico. They tried to assassinate me at my place of business.”
Even now, Gomez said, he has to “be aware of my surroundings because of my fear of being assassinated.”
Guillermo Contreras covers federal court and immigration news in the San Antonio and Bexar County area. Read him on our free site, mySA.com, and on our subscriber site, ExpressNews.com. | email@example.com | Twitter: @gmaninfedland