Responding through a Spanish-language interpreter, Elmer Andrade, 18, pleaded guilty in court Tuesday to the Aug. 13 grand larceny of a 16-year-old Chantilly boy.
The victim was both beaten and robbed, and it was revealed that Andrade and the four other teen-agers involved in the crime may possibly be members of the violent Hispanic gang known as Mara Salvatrucha, or MS13.
Wearing jail greens, with his long, black hair falling just to the nape of his neck, the baby-faced Andrade stood before Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge David Stitt to enter his plea. Replying to a question from Stitt, he said he'd only completed six years of school.
"Do you fully understand the charge against you?" asked the judge. "Are you entering the plea of guilty, freely and voluntarily, and because you are, in fact, guilty of grand larceny?" Andrade answered "Yes" twice. Stitt also made sure the young man realized that, by doing so, he waived his right to a trial, as well as his right to defend himself.
"Do you understand there is no plea agreement with the Commonwealth Attorney [and that] the maximum punishment is 20 years imprisonment?" asked the judge. Again, Andrade said, "Yes." He also said he realized that, by pleading guilty, he also gave up his right to appeal the court's decision.
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Dennis Fitzpatrick then presented details of the case against him. He said that, on Aug. 13, between midnight and 12:30 a.m., the victim left a trailer on United Drive in the Chantilly Meadows community. He'd been housesitting for a neighbor and was walking across a parking area on Airline Parkway to see his girlfriend when he was brutally attacked.
"Five young Hispanic males confronted him — he knew two personally," said Fitzpatrick. "They begin yelling things at him, including 'MS13' — short for the name of a local gang [Mara Salvatrucha] in Fairfax County. One of them, [Romulo] Mendoza, punches him in the face and breaks his nose. He's knocked to the ground and is kicked numerous times."
The victim received abrasions on his elbows, knees and other places on his body. Then, while lying on the ground, he felt someone reach into his back pocket and take his wallet. He asked one assailant if he could have it back, and they gave it to him — minus his money. Said Fitzpatrick: "He said he had $115-$130 in his wallet, including a $100 bill, because he'd been recently paid for some work he'd done."
The attackers fled in a white Toyota station wagon, and the victim called police and said his assailants hang out in the Falls Church area. Police spotted their car on Arlington Boulevard near the Seven Corners Shopping Center. The victim identified all five suspects — Andrade, Mendoza, 18, and three 16-year-olds, all of Falls Church — and police arrested them.
"Andrade initially denied his involvement in the crime," said Fitzpatrick. "He later said he was in Chantilly that night and there was bad blood between them [and the victim]. Andrade said they all kicked him and he got the money. He said they took it because they all wanted it."
Andrade said he'd spent $5-$6 on gas and $7 on a couple packs of Marlboro cigarettes, and he showed police the $100 and $5 bills he had left. "This was consistent with what the victim said he had," said Fitzpatrick. "And [Andrade] said, 'This money was from the boy in Chantilly.'" Stitt then accepted Andrade's plea and set his sentencing for Dec. 6. Mendoza is to have a jury trial, Nov. 20.