Two brothers who viciously beat a community college student in a gang-related assault could face two very different punishments for the crime.
SLO County Superior Court Judge John Trice said he wanted more time to consider the sentence of Javier Chang, 20, at a Nov. 29 hearing shortly after sentencing the man’s older brother, Noe Chang Leon Jr., 24, to just short of a decade in state prison.
A jury found both guilty in September of multiple felony assault charges in connection with the beating, which occurred on a residential street in Nipomo in 2014. According to prosecutors, the brothers and two other men attacked the victim, an Allan Hancock College student, with fists, feet, and beer bottles during a violent confrontation on South Oakglen Avenue. The victim was not in attendance at the hearing, but SLO County Prosecutor Greg Devitt was quick to remind Trice of the man’s extensive injuries.
“The scar is still there on the side of his face. I assume it’s going to be there forever,” Devitt said. “It’s frankly a miracle that he wasn’t knocked unconscious, disabled, or killed.”
Despite pleas from Leon’s defense attorney to hand down a sentence of probation, Trice sentenced him to a total of nine years in prison. That sentence included an enhancement on the charges because the assault occurred “for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with” a criminal street gang.
During Leon’s sentencing, Trice characterized the assault as a “classic” case of gang violence and said the court needed to “send a message” that gang activity would not be tolerated in SLO County.
“That’s street terrorism at its worst,” he said. “It could happen to anyone in this room.”
After they were found guilty, Leon and Chang pleaded guilty to the gang enhancement charges. However, Leon denied being a member of a gang in a short statement to the court at the Nov. 28 hearing.
“I’ve never been part of a gang,” he said.
Chang’s fate remains up in the air. After reviewing letters sent from family and community members on Chang’s behalf, as well as a letter Chang sent to his victim, Trice said he needed more time to decide on the younger brother’s sentence.
“He has a lot going for him,” Trice said
Earlier in the hearing Devitt argued that both brothers were responsible for the assault and asked that Chang be sentenced to 10 years in prison.
“If any two people were so similarly situated, it’s the two brothers in this case,” he said.
Trice disagreed and scheduled another sentencing hearing for Chang on Dec. 6.
“I think that people are very different,” he said.
Chang also gave a short statement to court, saying he did not remember what happened that day but was sorry for what he’d done.
“This was a huge mistake,” he said.
A third man was also charged in connection with the assault but was found not guilty by the jury. The fourth man allegedly involved in the assault, Federico Lazaro, skipped bail and remains at large.