Gang member pleads guilty to attacks

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WALLA WALLA -- A gang member pleaded guilty this morning in Superior Court to attacking two people during a fight last April.

Jesse Corona, 19, of 115 N. Fifth Ave., entered the guilty pleas to two counts of third-degree assault, which are felonies.

As a result, he faces a standard-range penalty of three to eight months in the County Jail when he's sentenced later. But the prosecution is recommending an alternative that would result in a jail term of up to 90 days and ensure Corona is supervised afterward for up to two years under community custody, a form of probation.

Judge John Lohrmann ordered Corona released today pending his sentencing, but placed conditions on him and warned him to have no gang contact or association whatsoever.

Officials said Corona stabbed Zachary Gonzalez in the lower back and struck Brian Saldana in his ear with a beer bottle during the altercation about 11 p.m. April 15, 2011, at 11th Avenue and Willow Street. Corona reportedly was flashing gang signs and threatening the victims.

He initially was charged with two counts of second-degree assault. But Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Joe Golden said in an interview he agreed to reduce the charges because Gonzalez and Saldana weren't hurt badly, and Corona's guilty pleas will result in two gang-related felonies on his record.

The charges were filed Feb. 16, but Corona has been incarcerated in the County Jail since late December, awaiting trial on two counts of first-degree assault in another case.

Those charges, however, will be dismissed.

"We're getting absolutely zero cooperation from the victims," Golden told the Union-Bulletin, adding that neither they nor a confidential eyewitness would testify willingly at a trial.

In that case, police claim Corona used a switchblade-style knife to stab Brian Lamprea, 18, during a fight outside the residence at 412 S. Eighth Ave. about 1:40 a.m. Dec. 24.

Lamprea -- reportedly a member of Corona's own gang -- was badly injured with a puncture wound near the base of his skull that fractured a vertebra. Lamprea also suffered a head laceration and both wounds were bleeding profusely, officials said.

In addition, a juvenile -- whose name isn't being disclosed by law enforcement -- reportedly suffered a cut hand while trying to intervene in the fight.

Meanwhile, Lamprea is being held in the County Jail on $40,000 bail for allegedly pointing a pistol at a man in Eastgate last month and threatening to kill him.

The victim has ties to a rival gang in Yakima, officials said.

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