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CALIFORNIA - Mongols' trial in Gustine bar killing set to begin


Suspected members of Mongols motorcycle gxxg face life in prison.

The trial of two suspected members of the Mongols outlaw motorcycle gxxg accused of a 2009 Gustine bar stabbing is scheduled to begin next week.

Albert Aleman, 38, and Ruben Silva Jr., 24, are charged with murder in the stabbing death of 33-year-old Bill James at the Gustine Club.

Attorneys in the case said questionnaires were submitted to potential jurors on Tuesday. Opening statements in the trial are expected to begin sometime next week.

Both men are charged with enhancements for allegedly committing the crime to benefit a criminal street gang, and Silva is accused of being the actual stabber. Both men have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

In the weeks after the stabbing, Merced County sheriff's deputies arrested nine suspects in the case, with help from law enforcement officials in the Bay Area and Southern California. With the exception of Silva and Aleman, all of the other defendants have taken plea deals or had the charges dropped.
Deputy District Attorney David Elgin is the prosecutor in the case. Defense attorney John Garcia is representing Silva, while Michael Fagalde is defending Aleman.

Garcia said there's no solid evidence against his client, and he plans to challenge the testimony of a key prosecution witness. "His identification (of Silva) at the very best has been flatly wrong, inconsistent and unreliable," Garcia said. "In a murder case, a lot hinges on the eyewitness account."

Sheriff's detectives believe eight to 10 men walked into the bar. A fight erupted after the men approached the victim.

During the fight, sheriff's detectives said, one of the assailants sprayed bar patrons with a can of Mace or pepper spray.

Once the bar was empty, the attackers stabbed James several times. The fight spilled onto the street. James was stabbed again and collapsed, investigators said.

If convicted, both men face life in prison.

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