Carjacker with gang ties gets leniency from Manatee judge

rdymond@bradenton.comApril 17, 2013 

MANATEE -- Beatrice Cabrera threw her arms around her teenage brother's defense attorney Tuesday and hugged her tightly outside a Manatee County courtroom.

"You worked hard and you did a good job," Cabrera whispered to Sarasota attorney Andrea Flynn Mogensen.

The emotional moment occurred after Fernando Cabrera, a documented member of the SUR-13 Manatee County street gang since he was 15, received a split sentence for a 2011 carjacking they year he joined the gang.

Cabrera was sentenced by Manatee County Judge John Lakin to 15 years, but it was split into five years of incarceration followed by 10 years probation.

During the first year of probation, Cabrera will have a 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew and must have no gang involvement, Lakin said.

Since Cabrera has already served roughly two and a half years in jail, he will serve about 33 months more in state prison before being released on probation, Flynn Mogensen said.

Lakin made it clear if Cabrera gets in trouble he would

immediately find himself serving the full 15 years in jail.

Manatee Sheriff's Office Detective Maria Gonzales Gillum's testimony painted a picture of Cabrera that left no doubt about his gang ties.

She said Cabrera's name with the gang is Raider. Pictures were shown of Cabrera giving hand signs for SUR-13 on social media sites and of Cabrera wearing an Oakland Raider football team jersey while giving gang hand signals.

Flynn Morgensen said the Cabrera family comes from California and many were Raider football fans, so Raider could be a sports-related nickname.

Lakin said although the state did a convincing job documenting Cabrera's gang membership, he decided to give the teen a second chance.

The judge may have also been swayed by Cabrera's letter to the judge, which he read in court Tuesday.

"At 17, I am older and more mature," Cabrera said. "I made mistakes. But talking to older guys in jail, I realized I didn't want to be like them. I hope you won't deprive me of a life before I live it."

State prosecutor Anthony Dafonseca said he respected the judge's ruling.

"I presented all the facts which is all we can do," Dafonseca said.

The state wanted Cabrera to serve 20 years, the same sentence being served by Prince Pichardo, who pleaded guilty to carjacking with a firearm and robbery by sudden snatching on the same Feb. 4, 2011, incident at the Walmart on State Road 70, which left a woman terrified but unhurt, according to police reports.

A jury found Cabrera a principal in the carjacking and robbery in an April 5 trial but decided he was not carrying a firearm.

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