Angelo "Angel" Martinez yesterday learned a hard lesson about hanging with a gun-toting criminal and refusing to truthfully testify against him in court.
For serving as the getaway driver in a June 2007 double-murder on a Kensington street corner, Martinez, 25, of Juniata Park, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The sentence caused the mother of one victim to express surprise and even empathy for Martinez's mother after the hearing, while some of his relatives cried and cursed the justice system after leaving the courtroom.
A Common Pleas Court jury last month found Martinez guilty of two counts of third-degree murder for the deaths of Diana Patrick, 31, and Raheem Haines, 20, and the attempted murder of Diana's sister, Jennifer Patrick, 32.
Martinez's longtime friend and co-defendant Angel Maldonado, 23, pulled the trigger and was convicted by the same jury of two counts of first-degree murder and related counts. Maldonado was sentenced after the trial to two life sentences without parole.
Trial testimony indicated that on June 17, 2007, Maldonado - with Martinez at his side - opened fire after the Patrick sisters told him not to sell drugs in front of their children. Haines had come to the defense of the sisters after an argument erupted.
In handing down Martinez's sentence yesterday, Judge Renee Caldwell Hughes chastised him for not truthfully testifying against Maldonado, telling him such cooperation would have lightened his sentence.
"If you had taken the stand and testified against Angel Maldonado, your behind would have gone home at some point. But you are not going home now," Hughes told the defendant.
When he protested that he had not shot anyone, Hughes told him it didn't matter.
"The law in Pennsylvania says if you help the shooter you are as guilty as the shooter," she explained.
While Martinez testified during the trial, "he did not testify to the truth," said Assistant District Attorney Beth McCaffery, who prosecuted the case.
Martinez said he did not know Maldonado had a gun, he did not know what the shooting was about and that he drove the getaway car out of fear that if he didn't Maldonado would shoot him, too. Jennifer Patrick testified that Martinez was hyping the confrontation between Maldonado and the Patrick sisters.
"If he had decided to come forward and tell the detectives in this case what really happened - the truth - then potentially he probably could have saved himself from a life sentence," McCaffery said.
No matter what Martinez said, however, he was going to serve a lengthy sentence. One third-degree murder conviction carries a 20- to 40-year sentence, while two third-degree murder convictions carry a life sentence - whether the convictions occur at the same time or years apart, McCaffery said.
"I just feel bad for the boy. I feel he deserves something, but I feel his mother's pain, I really do" said Delores Skelton, Haines' mother.
Diana Jones, Haines' grandmother, said: "For him to be that stupid not to testify against the person who actually did it and to devastate his family even more - it's just stupid."