FORT SMITH -- A 20-year-old man was sentenced to more than 100 years in prison Wednesday after a Sebastian County Circuit Court jury convicted him in the death of a rival gang member.
The jury of seven men and five women deliberated for nearly 4½ hours before convicting Bryan Porras of first-degree murder and seven counts of committing a terroristic act. One terroristic act count specified that it resulted in the death on Jan. 14 of 18-year-old Justin Lopez. The other six counts, with lesser felony classifications, specified that they were committed with the purpose of causing injury or death.
Porras was accused with three other members of the Slanga 96 gang of spraying bullets into a trailer occupied by rival Clout Boys member Perez and friend Trey Miller. Of the more than 40 bullets from two assault-style rifles, one bullet struck Lopez in the head and killed him instantly.
The jury convicted Porras of murder as an accomplice because, while evidence was presented that he was one of two men who shot into the trailer, a state Crime Laboratory firearms and tool mark examiner testified that the fragment of bullet removed from Lopez's head was fired from an AR-15-style rifle. Porras fired an AK-47-style rifle in the shooting, according to reports.
Family members of Lopez testified during the sentencing phase of the trial and told jurors about the loss they feel over Lopez's death.
"All I feel is hate since that night that I found out he was never coming home," said Guadalupe Barrientos, Lopez's girlfriend and the mother of their 1½-year-old son. "Hate towards the ones who caused my pain, his family's pain and the pain that one day my son will probably feel."
Jurors deliberated another 90 minutes before returning with recommendations of sentences, which Circuit Judge Michael Fitzhugh followed in his sentencing of Porras: 63 years on the first-degree murder charge and 25 years for the terroristic act resulting in death. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison and given a $1,000 fine on each the other six terroristic act convictions.
Porras will have to serve 70 percent of the 63-year sentence, or 44 years, before he becomes eligible for parole on the murder conviction. The other sentences, as the jury directed, will run concurrently.
But Sebastian County deputy prosecutor Scott Houston said the 10-year firearm enhancement that jurors added to the count of terroristic act resulting in death and the five years they added to each of the other six terroristic acts will run consecutively, adding another 40 years to the 44 years Porras will have to serve on the murder conviction before becoming parole eligible.
Houston told jurors during closing arguments in the sentencing phase of the trial that Porras had been convicted of five felony drug offenses last year and had been given a suspended sentence.
During sentencing, Fitzhugh ordered Porras' suspended sentences on those five felonies to be revoked and sentenced him to 34 years in prison to run consecutively with his other sentences, bringing Porras' total sentence to at least 118 years.
Responding to the defense's plea for leniency to give Porras a chance at rehabilitation, Houston asked jurors when they wanted Porras back out on the streets.
"You are the conscience of the community," he said. "You are the reflection of the values of the community."
In closing arguments for Porras, his attorney, David Dunagin of Fort Smith, pointed out inconsistencies in the testimony Tuesday by co-defendant and fellow gang member Jorge Chirinos, who told jurors that he would receive a lenient sentence if he testified truthfully.
Dunagin said Chirinos lied when he told police shortly after the shooting that he was drunk and high on drugs and didn't know anything about Lopez's death. Yet, 10 months later, on Tuesday, he testified for the state in detail about the events before and after Lopez's death.
And in an earlier interview, Dunagin said, Chirinos had told police that the two rifles used in the shooting were in the trunk of Porras' car, but he said Tuesday that they were under the driver's seat.
Dunagin pointed to other inconsistencies in the evidence, such as Trey Miller testifying that he saw a "chubby" person look inside the trailer before the shooting started. Chirinos identified that person as Porras, who Dunagin said was not chubby.
And despite the rain that was falling the night of Jan. 14, police investigators never mentioned seeing mud on the shoes or clothing of the four men accused of being involved in Lopez's shooting.
But Houston said those observations were "red herrings" to mislead or distract jurors. While Porras didn't fire the fatal shot, Houston said, the four gang members rode in Porras' car, he drove them to a wedding in Fort Smith where he questioned people about how to find Lopez, then drove them to the alley behind 2315 N. Ninth St. where the trailer was parked, ran into the yard to make sure someone was inside the trailer, then ordered for the shooting to start.
"Without Bryan Porras, there is no death of Justin Lopez," Houston said.
Three others are charged along with Porras with first-degree murder and seven counts of committing terroristic acts: Chirinos, 17, who is scheduled to go on trial Jan. 8; Alberto Chavez, 19, who is scheduled to go on trial Nov. 27; and Ryan Oxford, 20, who is scheduled to go on trial Dec. 18, according to court records.
Metro on 11/16/2017
Print Headline: Man guilty in gang slaying; Convicted of multiple counts, his sentence is 118 years