Walla Walla man pleads guilty in gang fight

Roberto Arroyo was sentenced Tuesday to time served for his role; a teen was charged the same day in connection with same fight.

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WALLA WALLA -- A man pleaded guilty Tuesday and was sentenced in Superior Court for his part in a gang-related fight last winter near 12th Avenue and Birch Street.

Roberto R. Arroyo, 20, of 330 W. Chestnut St., entered the guilty plea to a reduced charge of felony riot. Judge John Lohrmann then sentenced him to the 46 days he'd served in the Walla Walla County Jail since his arrest in June. Arroyo then was released with conditions including no gang associations.

He could have received up to a year of confinement, but the time-served sentence was recommended by Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Joe Golden.

Arroyo initially was charged with complicity to first-degree assault, but that was reduced to more accurately reflect his participation and the victim's injuries, Golden said. The city's police officers assigned to the gang unit reportedly agree with the reduction.

In pleading guilty to the riot charge, Arroyo admitted engaging in threatening behavior during the gang fight. Police said he was at the scene when Christian J. Ramos was hit on the head and shoulder with a baseball bat during the March 7 fight near his house.

Arroyo had arrived in a vehicle with 15-year-old Antonio Carmona-Hernandez and others about 11:20 a.m., after which a dispute arose between Ramos and occupants of the vehicle, officials said. Carmona-Hernandez reportedly was holding the bat as he got out of the car and then allegedly hit Ramos with it. Arroyo and others also exited the car and Arroyo assisted in the assault, according to a police report filed in court.

Officials believe at some point, Ramos acquired the bat and struck Carmona-Hernandez in the head, seriously injuring him. Carmona-Hernandez reportedly was rendered unconscious for a couple of days and hospitalized for about a week. But Golden said in an interview he will not charge Ramos because Carmona-Hernandez was the aggressor and it could easily be argued that Ramos acted in self-defense.

Arroyo's attorney, Julie Brown, told Lohrmann in court Tuesday that Arroyo is "not the person in this case who was carrying the bat, although he did go."

In urging Lohrmann to accept the prosecution's recommendation for time-served for Arroyo, Brown added, "He knows this lifestyle is not one that creates a positive outcome for him."

Carmona-Hernandez, who has turned 16, was charged Tuesday afternoon in the Juvenile Department of Superior Court with second-degree assault in the attack on Ramos.

He also was charged with fourth-degree assault for an unrelated incident in which he allegedly participated with two other suspects in assaulting a man near Ninth Avenue and Rose Street on June 26. Carmona-Hernandez was arrested that day and lodged in the Juvenile Justice Center. No serious injuries were reported in that assault.

Carmona-Hernandez also is one of several defendants who pleaded guilty to a riot charge in connection with a gang-related melee in June 2009 outside St. Patrick Catholic Church.

Terry McConn can be reached at terrymcconn@wwub.com or 526-8319.

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