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Teen Won't Be Tried as Adult Boy is Charged in Stabbing Death
By E. Mark Moreno
San Jose Mercury News, March 18, 1995

A Fremont teen-ager charged in the stabbing death of an American High School student in a gang brawl last year will not be tried as an adult, an Alameda County judge ruled Friday. The murder was a result of youthful machismo gone awry, the judge said.

Superior Court Judge James R. Lambden concluded at the end of a six-day hearing that the youth, 17, was "fit" to be evaluated and sentenced as a juvenile. The Alameda County District Attorney's office, arguing that the killing of Alejandro Cueva showed adult sophistication, sought to have the boy tried by a jury.

"As a result of an altercation arising from imagined insults, one teen- ager lies dead, another has been wounded and a third, now standing before the court, faces years behind bars," Lambden said, reading from a prepared statement.

"However, the serious nature of the offense does not, as a matter of law, and of itself, render the minor unfit to be tried as a juvenile."

Returns to juvenile court

The ruling means the accused boy will return to juvenile court for trial. If convicted, he could serve up to eight years in the California Youth Authority. Cueva, 16, was stabbed to death near the north Fremont high school in front of at least three dozen witnesses during the Oct. 25 fight. Another boy, Alejandro Campos, then 15, was injured in the fight involving teens aligned with several gang factions and ethnic groups.

The accused, then 16, was arrested for the murder and has been held in Alameda County Juvenile Hall In San Leandro since.

In court testimony, details emerged through the eyes of several witnesses called by deputy Public Defender's Kimberly Kupferer, who argued the boy was good-natured and would turn his life around if given the chance.

For the past two years, he had gone through emotional turmoil and had "fallen through the cracks," friends, family members and others testified. Bad relations with his natural father and trouble in school had a lot of do with his trouble. At American High School, he joined the wrestling team and excelled, former Coach Craig Preisendorf said during testimony last week.

His grades slipped

But his grades slipped although he tried hard to keep up the C average standard with no Fs required of school athletes.

By the spring of last year, the boy was dropped from the wrestling squad.

"I've seen a great number of kids who would have, without wrestling, been in some kind of gang," Preisendorf said. "A kid's going to join some kind of group."

The accused youth joined a gang called the Brotherhood. Although white, he claimed allegiance with the Norteno gang faction, comprised of Northern California-based Mexican-American gangs on the streets and in prisons.

In August, he was attacked by rival gang members as he and others stepped out of a car to order pizza, according to friends who testified in court. He was taken to a hospital for treatment of "blunt face trauma and contusions," said the Folsom prison social worker appointed to evaluate the youth, Beverly Jayne Burger.

The day of the killing began with a skirmish among two youths at school. After school, up to 50 people were gathered across the street.

Witnesses tell details

Cueva was walking, along with others, according to testimony. According to witnesses Cueva grappled with two boys, hitting one of them in the head, according to witnesses. Then the youth on trial stabbed Cueva in the chest, witnesses told police. Campos, who was fighting other boys, was stabbed in the rib area, but not as deep.

In arguing that the young man should be tried as an adult. Deputy District Attorney Mark Thomson cited remarks the youth allegedly made after the fracas. "I got that knife all the way in him," one witness quoted him as saying.

But Lambden ruled the youth didn't show "criminal sophistication" and would respond to rehabilitation services provided in the California Youth Authority. Other than vandalism and petty theft, he had no other criminal record.

"If it's not successful, I'll see you back here," Lambden told the boy in court Friday, "Don't prove me wrong." The youth smiled and nodded.

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