Deciding on Whether To Seek Death Penalty

Deciding on Whether To Seek Death Penalty

Two plead not guilty in Sandoval murder.

The U.S. Department of Justice and Assistant U.S. Attorney Morris R. Parker Jr. will decide by March 11 whether to seek the death penalty against Alirio Reyes, of Herndon, and Osmin Heriberto Alfaro-Fuentes, of Langley Park, Md.

Reyes and Alfaro-Fuentes, both 25 and both alleged members of the gang Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13), are charged with the murder of Jose Sandoval, a 17-year-old Herndon High School student, who was shot on May 16 on Park Avenue. They are also charged with seriously injuring a 16-year-old girl who was with Sandoval.

Reyes and Alfaro-Fuentes, who has a tattoo of "MS-13" that covers most of his forehead, both pleaded not guilty to all charges against them at their arraignment hearing on Dec. 22 before U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis, III. Both waived their rights to a speedy trial, citing the "complex matter" of the case. Both defendants received assistance from a Spanish translator.

Ellis will set their trial date at a hearing, which is scheduled for March 11, at the federal courthouse in Alexandria. Defense attorneys will have the opportunity to meet with the Department of Justice before the hearing to make a presentation about why the death penalty should not be sought in this case, Ellis said during the Dec. 22 arraignment.

Reyes, who was taken into federal custody in Alexandria as of July 26, 2004, filed a request for a new attorney. At the arraignment, his defense attorney Alan Yamamoto said he was having "difficulty in getting him to understand why this case is taking as long as it is."

Reyes' request was denied.

Reyes and Alfaro-Fuentes, natives of El Salvador, "entered the U.S. illegally at an unknown point in the past and obtained temporary protected status through Immigration and Naturalization Service in approximately 2002," according to court documents.

On Dec. 15, a federal grand jury in Alexandria returned an eight-count indictment against Reyes and Alfaro-Fuentes, who fled to Los Angeles after Sandoval was murdered. "The indictment specifically charges Reyes and Alfaro-Fuentes with committing these crimes to maintain or increase their respective positions within MS-13," as well as to promote the gang and its reputation for violence, according to court documents.

Reyes is represented by Yamamoto and Lana Manitta. Alfaro-Fuentes is represented by Robert L. Jenkins Jr.