Three young men with most of their lives ahead of them will now likely spend that time behind bars.
Juan Montano, 23, his 22-year-old brother Jose, and 20-year-old Giovanni Jasso were all sentenced to life without the possibility of parole by Judge Charles Brehmer on Wednesday after being convicted in the murder of 17-year-old Abraham Rubio in 2017 in Lamont.
Besides the life term, all three had an enhancement of 25 years to life, as a firearm was used in the homicide. As Juan Montano was the actual shooter in the case, he had an additional 20 years tacked on, for a total enhancement of 45 years to life in prison.
"I am very happy with today’s findings,” said prosecutor Cole McKnight. “The judge imposed what was required by law, and I hope that each of these defendants spend every minute of the rest of their lives in prison.”
The three men were found guilty by a jury in March in the July 21, 2017 shooting death of Rubio. According to court records, Jose Montano had a verbal disagreement with the victim near a residence in the 8100 block of Paradise Road that led to the shooting.
Shortly after, Rubio was walking toward the residence when he was surrounded by the three men lying in wait, court documents show. Juan Montano then allegedly pulled out a gun and shot Rubio, after which the suspects fled the area in a vehicle.
Over the course of the investigation, deputies were able to determine the identities of the three suspects and arrested them all in early August 2017, according to court records.
"This was a senseless murder," Brehmer said. "There was absolutely no reason for this to happen. Abraham had no reason to die."
Defense attorney Paul Cadman, who represented Jasso, said he intends to file an appeal on behalf of his client.
"Judge Brehmer is a very fair and moral person, but his hands were tied. He was forced under California law to sentence my client, who was a teenager at the time with no record, to life without the possibility of parole," he said. "It’s cruel and unusual punishment to send a teenager to prison for the rest of his life when he’s not the shooter and was just merely present."
A few of Jasso's family members attended the sentencing, including his aunt, Rosalie Elizalde.
"I’m sorry that this happened. Nobody should ever lose a kid," she said. "But my nephew is innocent. The only thing he is guilty of is being in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Jasso's mother, Carmen Verdugo, said she is hopeful that her son will be able to get out on appeal and rejoin the family in the near future.
"We have a lot of faith," she said. "I’m going to be here 100 percent for my son, no matter what. He’s going to come home. I know he’s going to come home."
Cadman said cases of gang violence like this has become all too common in Kern County and has grown to become a major problem.
"This gang violence really needs to stop. It's ridiculous," he said. "These crimes tend to occur over literally nothing — symbols, street names. These are young kids getting roped into these gangs when they're 10 or 11 years old. That is a culture that needs to stop."