Cesar Gomez is charged with murder with special circumstances for the alleged killing of Ashley Lilly, a prostitute. Lilly had posted on Myspace that she would be at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Anaheim and would offer her services to people that contacted her. Around August 20, 2009, Gomez went into Lilly’s room and beat her face and body and then strangled her. He ransacked her hotel room and stole personal items. On August 21, hotel staff found her dead in her room. Through DNA evidence, Gomez was suspected and arrested for the murder. Gomez had a prior strike on his record for a 1993 murder conviction. If convicted of this murder, he will face life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Gomez did not sexually assault Lilly and seemed interested only in murderher personal belongings. The District Attorney will allege that this crime was for the benefit of a criminal street gang and committed this crime for the benefit of the gang. If it is proven that Gomez did this for the benefit of the gang, his sentence will be enhanced significantly.
There is a split among the courts as to whether the DA has to prove that the crime was for the benefit of the gang. The basic gang statute in California, Penal Code section 186.22 says “Any person who actively participates in any criminal street gang with knowledge that its members engage in or have engaged in a pattern of criminal gang activity, and who willfully promotes, furthers, or assists in any felonious criminal conduct by members of
that gang, shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail for a period not to exceed one year, or by imprisonment in the state prison for 16 months, or two or three years.” Gomez’s lawyer will likely argue that he did this crime due to personal reasons (robbery) and that it had nothing to do with promoting the gang or making people afraid of the gang.