Norteño gang member gets life sentence for 2010 killing over gang colors 

A Norteño gang member who was convicted of fatally shooting a 21-year-old man in Redwood City in November 2010 because he was wearing rival gang colors was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Michael Rodriguez, 21, who fired the shots that killed Julio Cuevas more than three years ago, was also given 25 years to life for using a gun in the commission of murder.

Rodriguez, dressed in orange jail clothes, showed no emotion as the sentence was read Tuesday.

On Nov. 25, after a 15-day trial and just two hours of deliberations, a jury convicted Rodriguez of first-degree murder for gang purposes, San Mateo County Chief Deputy District Attorney Karen Guidotti said.

Jaime Rodriguez, 22, another gang member who participated in the crime, already pleaded guilty to murder and testified against his former gang associate in the trial, Guidotti said. He was also sentenced Tuesday to 26 years to life in prison.

A third gang member who was at the scene of the killing, Mario Cazares, 21, pleaded guilty to mayhem and also testified in the trial. He is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 7.

Members of the victim’s family were present in the courtroom for both sentencing hearings, but did not make a statement.

Prosecutors alleged that on the day of the murder, Nov. 28, 2010, Michael Rodriguez and Jaime Rodriguez — who are not related — were in Redwood City with other members of the Norteño gang.

The group confronted Cuevas, who was sitting with friends in front of an apartment complex and happened to be wearing a blue jacket, according to prosecutors. Norteños claim red as their gang color.

The confrontation over the jacket turned into a shoving match, and during the fight Michael Rodriguez shot Cuevas four times, prosecutors said.

Cuevas, who was not a known member of a gang, died in an alley off Madison Avenue.

Michael Rodriguez and Cazares were arrested the following day. Jaime Rodriguez fled to New Mexico, where he was arrested in 2011 and extradited to San Mateo County to face charges.

During Jaime Rodriguez’s sentencing, San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Barbara Mallach called the killing “senseless.”

“I feel an overwhelming sense of frustration and sadness,” Mallach said.

Deputy District Attorney Morris Maya said during that sentencing that Cuevas was tormented and killed “for no other reason than he was wearing the wrong color.”

“The victim in this case was totally blameless,” Maya said.

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