By City News Service
A state appeals court panel Wednesday upheld a former Sunland resident's conviction for acting as the getaway driver for a gang member who fatally shot a black man because of his race.
The three-justice panel from California's 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected the defense's contention that there was insufficient evidence to support Martin Sotelo's April 2011 conviction for first-degree murder and the special circumstance finding that the victim, James Shamp, was killed because of his race.
Shamp, who was a week shy of his 49th birthday, was shot on Dec. 22, 2008, while taking a trash bag to a bin outside his workplace at the Canoga Park Bowl.
Sotelo also was convicted of one count each of evading an officer, along with the attempted robbery of another victim shortly before the attack on Shamp. Jurors also found true the special circumstance that Shamp was killed during a drive-by killing, along with an allegation that the crimes were committed for the benefit of a criminal street gang.
Co-defendant Richard Bordelon -- formerly of Reseda -- pleaded guilty in March 2009 to first-degree murder and other charges, and admitted that he had personally discharged a firearm.
Bordelon "used a racial epithet to refer to Shamp" before the killing, according to the appellate court panel's 18-page ruling.
Sotelo "did not leave after the first shot but drove away with Bordelon only after Bordelon finished shooting. Appellant offered no assistance to Shamp, who had fallen mortally wounded," the ruling says.
The justices noted that Sotelo was driving the car during a police chase that ensued, concluding that it was "conduct evidencing consciousness of guilt."
"After the car crashed, appellant fled on foot and removed his shirt, additional consciousness of guilt evidence," according to the panel.
Sotelo and Bordelon are each serving life prison terms without the possibility of parole.