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28 Years for Gang Attack

Wilber Rivera, 19, was sentenced to 28 years in prison Friday, March 10 for the machete attack that nearly killed Shawn Daniel Schroeder outside the Multiplex Cinemas in Merrifield on Jan. 3, 2005.

A Fairfax jury convicted Rivera in August and recommended a 28-year sentence for aggravated malicious wounding and participation in a criminal street gang. Schroeder suffered a fractured skull during the attack in addition to complete severing of three of his fingers.

“That jury spoke for this county,” said Casey Lingan, assistant commonwealth’s attorney, in Friday’s sentencing hearing. “That jury expected to be safe from this defendant for 28 years.”

Rivera didn’t testify at his trial, and only shook his head to say he had nothing to say at his sentencing hearing Friday.

“Throughout this case, you have said nothing,” said Judge Jonathan C. Thacher. “You have taken no responsibility.”

Thacher followed the jury’s recommendation and sentenced Rivera to 23 years in prison for aggravated malicious wounding and five additional years for participation in a criminal street gang.

Schroeder testified at the trial that the Jan. 3, 2005 attack spilled over from an incident a week or two before at the McDonalds in Tysons Corner Mall, where Rivera worked as a bus boy at the Rainforest Cafe.

Schroeder was walking away from the theater in Merrifield with his baby and girlfriend after seeing a movie that had ended at approximately 11:15 p.m.

"As we were walking a blue Nissan Maxima slammed on the brakes," he said. Rivera, one of the passengers, screamed at Schroeder, "Don't you remember me from Tysons Corner Mall?" Schroeder testified.

A group got out of the car and rushed after Schroeder.

As his girlfriend ran with their baby in the opposite direction, Schroeder said he first attempted to keep the group's attention on him.

Schroeder was stabbed multiple times and his fingers were chopped off as he tried to protect from being slashed in the face.

After he fell to the ground during the attack, "I thought, 'Either I play dead or I fight for my life,'" Schroeder said during the trial. "I held my breath as long as I could. I rolled my eyes to the back of my head."

At the time of the machete attack, Rivera was on probation for assault and had been expelled from Fairfax County Public Schools.

Co-defendant Moris Villalobos is scheduled to be sentenced later this spring.