Marked Man

Felix Medina and his gang compatriots ruthlessly ruled a south central neighborhood. Now the party's over.

Medina noticed a photographer taking his picture and smiled, then displayed his middle finger.

A few minutes later, Medina joked with his attorney during a recess while his mother, younger sister and a heavily tattooed man provided moral support from the court gallery. When the hearing concluded, the tattooed man flashed what appeared to be a gang sign to Medina as he headed out the door.

Medina nodded.

Medina's public defender, Stephen C. Kunkle, complained to Galati about New Times taking photographs of Medina without Medina's permission. Galati reminded Kunkle that the court sessions are public proceedings and that the press is welcome.

During the hearing, Medina rejected the state's plea-bargain offer for a 12-year prison term; a trial expected to last one to two weeks is scheduled for November 30.

"They want him to plead to everything," Kunkle says when asked why Medina rejected the plea bargain.

The other three defendants in the RICO case already have settled.

Joe "Baby Joe" Munguia was sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty to one count of an armed robbery, a crime Medina is also charged with. Munguia also pleaded guilty to participating in a criminal street gang.

Margarito "Lito" Rodarte will be sentenced October 15. He's pleaded guilty to aggravated assault in the Miguel beating, possession of marijuana and participating in a criminal street gang. Rodarte faces seven to 10 years in prison.

Ray "Fat Ray" Valenzuela also pleaded guilty to the aggravated assault on Miguel and to participating in a criminal street gang. Valenzuela, who had no previous felony convictions and has had a job for several years, was given three years' intensive probation and ordered to cease all contact with gang members.

Detective Stephenson says the case against Medina is strong. Medina is charged in the same crimes that Munguia, Rodarte and Valenzuela have already admitted committing.

Victims of the crimes have also indicated they will testify in court, Stephenson says.

And Medina acknowledged in his police interview that he has been in possession of firearms, including a shotgun he carried in the trunk of his car. It is illegal for Medina to possess a firearm because of his previous felony convictions.

But not everyone is convinced Medina's fate is sealed. Valenzuela's defense attorney, Michael Freeman, says victims may change their mind about testifying because they are afraid of repercussions.

Whatever the outcome of the trial, Felix Medina has taken a hard fall. He's no longer trusted by his homeboys and the New Eme has a score to settle with him. The onetime gangbangers' idol is a marked man.

"The bottom line is Felix did have a lot of pull," one gang associate tells New Times. "He had a lot of fuckin' pull. With the neighborhood and with whatever the guys in prison said."

For a time, he provided the Eastside LCM the glory all gangbangers crave.

"For him being part of our neighborhood brought us a lot of power, glamour and respect. It's what every gang member wants, to be the top dog. He was for a while, the top dog.

"He was the baddest dude that I know and a lot of people think the same way. Every gang member -- Hispanic -- would look at him like he was almost a god."

See previous stories in the Hard Core series here.

Contact John Dougherty at his online address: jdougherty@newtimes.com

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