Man in assaults handed second chance

Jesse Corona will not have to serve any more jail time contingent on obeying his probation conditions.

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WALLA WALLA -- A man who says he wants a future outside of gang involvement will not have to spend any more jail time for attacking two people during a fight last April as long as he obeys conditions of probation.

Jesse Corona, 19, of 115 N. Fifth Ave., was sentenced Monday afternoon in Superior Court to 90 days in the County Jail, with credit for 86 days served and additional-time he'd earned for good behavior.

He had been released March 9 pending Monday's sentencing after pleading guilty to two counts of third-degree assault.

Corona faced a standard-range penalty of three to eight months. But Monday, Judge John Lohrmann went along with a prosecution recommendation of an alternative for the first-time felony offender.

The alternative only allows for incarceration of up to 90 days, but ensures Corona will be supervised under community custody, a form of probation.

Lohrmann ordered Corona to undergo a year of the supervision with conditions that include he have no involvement or associations with gangs.

Corona was facing two criminal cases and the possibility of spending more than 30 years in prison. But the most serious case was dropped because the prosecution would have had difficulty proving it.

Corona told Lohrmann before the sentence was imposed that he looks upon his situation as a wake-up call. He and his attorney, Julie Brown, said he plans to apply to college and has a job working with his father in the orchards.

"We've gone over the goals of his life," Brown said. "And incarceration isn't one of them."

Officials said Corona stabbed Zachary Gonzalez in the lower back and struck Brian Saldana in his ear with a beer bottle during an 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 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 had been incarcerated in the County Jail since late December, awaiting trial on two counts of first-degree assault in another case.

Those charges, however, were dropped because neither victim nor a confidential eyewitness were willing to testify at a trial.

Lohrmann urged Corona to make the most of the opportunity he was given.

"(College) is a very good goal you've set for yourself," Lohrmann said.

"If you get that education, I guarantee you won't get into trouble. You'll have other things to do and have a livelihood."

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

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