The 21-year-old man who pleaded guilty in a November 2015 machete attack on a Leesburg man was sentenced today to serve 10 years in prison.
Two other defendants previously were sentenced to 10-year prison terms in the case, which involved the group attempting to force the victim to join the MS-13 gang.
Defense attorney R. Penn Bain said Jose Roel Guevara Machado came to the U.S. from El Salvador in 2014 to get away from gangs in his neighborhood and to provide support for his girlfriend and their two children who remain there. Bain said Guevara Machado was not a member of MS-13, but participated in the attack because gang members had threatened his family.
According to evidence in the case, Jose Israel Alvarenga, 19, was the ringleader of the attack. Prosecutors said Alvarenga approached a Leesburg man he believed to be a member of the 18th Street gang. The victim denied any involvement in the 18th Street gang and Alvarenga demanded that he join the MS-13 gang. When the victim told Alvarenga that he did not want to join a gang and walked away, he was kicked in the back. Alvarenga threatened to kill the victim if he did not join MS-13. The victim fled.
A few days later, the victim was attacked in a parking lot by Josue Jeremias Cruz Gonzalez and Guevara Machado. He suffered multiple stab wounds to his head, neck and hands, losing a finger and having his face, ear, head, neck and hands scarred.
Alvarenga was arrested on Nov. 16, 2015, on warrants related the assault. Alvarenga told inmates that he had instructed Cruz Gonzalez and Guevara Machado to kill the victim. Prosecutors said that while in jail, Alvarenga also offered to pay other inmates to kill the victim prior to his trial; he requested a photo of the victim’s head cut off as proof. Guevara Machado was isolated from Alvarenga while in jail and was not involved in that plot, attorneys said.
Cruz Gonzalez, 20, pleaded guilty to malicious wounding and gang participation. He was also sentenced to 10 years.
Guevara Machado, 21, pleaded guilty to malicious wounding and gang participation on July 25.
During Thursday’s sentencing hearing, Circuit Court Judge Jeanette A. Irby said Guevara Machado could not escape accountability for his poor choices. Although Bain said his client came to America to get away from gang violence, Irby said he chose to associate with gang members and then participated in the violent plot to force someone else to enter gang life. “It’s just disturbing on so many levels,” she said.
In addition to imposing consecutive five-year sentences for the two charges, Irby required one year of supervised probation following his release. It is expected that Guevara Machado will be deported following his release, but if he crossed the border again, the probation requirements would be enforced.