Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Judge holds fate of gang member-turned scholar

The L.A. Times profiles Juan Obed Silva, a former gang member who turned his life around after a prosecutor and a judge took a chance on him:

The Orange County district attorney's office charged him with attempted murder. With several enhancements for being a gang member and using a firearm, he faced a sentence of 50 years or longer.

* * *

"Knowing that I was going to have to go to prison in a wheelchair -- it was agonizing," he said, remembering the day of his sentencing. "It's almost like you exist but in another dimension, where feelings can't touch you."

Then he was rescued, by the most unlikely people. The prosecutor withdrew some of the charges against him and the judge announced a dramatically reduced sentence: just five years of probation.

It was a decision [Silva's] attorney, [Victor] Cueto, calls "miraculous" and a "once in a lifetime" event. The judge had been moved, in part, by a probation report that described Obed as a young man of artistic temperament and said Obed had reconciled with a former gang rival and given him shelter because he was homeless.
Judge holds fate of gang member-turned scholar - Los Angeles Times, Feb. 3, 2009. Silva stayed clean for 5 years, then began college. Now he is finishing a master's in English.

He is also facing deportation to Mexico, which he left when he was a baby, for the shooting in 1998, when he was a teenager.
To stay in the U.S., he'll need one more rare act of compassion, this time from the immigration judge.

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