By Raoul V. Mowatt
San Jose Mercury News, April 28, 1995
A Fremont teen-ager admitted in court Thursday that he killed one American High School student and wounded another in a gang-related fight near the campus last year.
The 17-year-old, whose identity is being withheld, pleaded guilty in Juvenile Court to voluntary manslaughter and assault with a deadly weapon for the fatal stabbing of Alejandro Cueva, 16, and the wounding of Alejandro Campos.
The youth was originally charged with murder, but a two-week hearing that determined he should be tried as a juvenile revealed evidence that led to a plea agreement. Assistant Public Defender Kimberly Kupferer said.
A trial likely would have resulted in a lesser conviction than murder for the minor, Kupferer said, because although he went too far, he had a genuine belief that he needed to defend himself.
Assuming a Juvenile Court referee approves the agreement, the youth will serve up to eight years at the California Youth Authority, depending on whether he is deemed to have reformed himself. If he has not, Kupferer said, the teen-ager could face an additional three years in state prison.
The youth "is very remorseful over what happened," Kupferer said. "Unfortunately, it took something like this for him to take a hard look at his life."
But relatives of Alejandro Cueva, who was killed Oct. 25, were crestfallen at the case's likely outcome and said they were disappointed with the criminal Justice system.
"He should pay for his crimes," said Aiejandro's 18-year-old cousin, Juan Cueva. "If justice isn't fair, if they don't give him enough years, he's going to pay somehow. God's not going to forgive him."
In a case that continues to provoke gang and ethnic tensions at the school, Cueva was stabbed to death in front of a car dealership about a block away from the north Fremont campus. Campos, then 15, was injured in the fight involving teens aligned with several gang factions and ethnic groups.
The assailant was detained shortly after the killing. He was formally arrested once he told police he committed the stabbings, and has been held since at Alameda County Juvenile Hall.
On Thursday, the lanky, bearded youth appeared subdued, at first only speaking to answer "Yes, sir," "Yes/ ma'am," "No, sir" and "No, ma'am" as questions warranted. He declined to address pro tern referee Ralph Francis further, then had a brief whispered exchange with his mother and stepfather. Both adults left the courthouse without comment. Prosecutor Mark Thomson was not immediately available for comment.
"I think (the youth) can really benefit from some of the programs at the Youth Authority," Kupferer said. "At the time of this offense, he had been in a spiral and fell through all the cracks."
The boy was a standout wrestler at American High but had trouble with his grades and his family, according to testimony. A lack of counseling at the school led to his eventually dropping out and joining a gang called the Brotherhood, his lawyer said.
Although white, he claimed allegiance with the Norteno gang faction, comprised of Northern California-based Mexican-American gangs on the streets and in prisons.
The day of the killing began with a flippant remark between two youths at American; one said he got hickey from the other's mother, according to police. Neither Cueva nor the 17-year-old was involved in theincident, which fueled tension throughout the day.
After school, as many as 50 people gathered across the street from campus, expecting a fight. As Camposand Cueva walked home with some of their friends, a larger group of youths - including the killer - charged them, according to police.
Witnesses said a car pulled up and passengers handed off bats and chair legs to the friends of Cueva and Campos to use as weapons. After the 17-year- old saw two of his friends get hit and bleed profusely from their faces, he stabbed Cueva and Campos, his lawyer said.
"It wasn't this cold-blooded killer thing," Kupferer said. "It was a similar response that someone would have if someone they cared about had been attacked."
But some ofCueva's relatives disagree, and say the killer should be locked up for 25 years to life in state prison.
"I don't think he can become a better person." said Juan Cueva, an 18- year-old senior at American. "He might try to, but he won't. Inside him, he won't regret what he did."