A Pasco man locked up for attacking a mother and daughter inside their apartment must serve out the remainder of his 10-year sentence after an appellate court panel upheld his convictions.
Isidro Licon, 27, had hoped to get the 2012 case tossed on several grounds involving decisions made by the trial judge.
However, a three-judge panel of the Washington Court of Appeals recently concluded that Superior Court Judge Vic VanderSchoor only made one error, as alleged by Licon, and in this matter it was harmless.
Licon argued that a Pasco police officer should not have been allowed to tell the jury about statements made by a witness to the confrontation because it was hearsay testimony. The witness had refused to answer questions and often told the court he had “nothing to say” or couldn’t recall what happened that day in his apartment.
Licon’s appeal said by allowing the officer to introduce statements, it violated the defendant’s right to question and confront the other witness.
The higher court’s 37-page opinion said it was a “harmless error” and didn’t rise to the level of overturning the case. The court said the witness’ testimony was short-lived and not repeated by prosecutors; other witnesses already confirmed some of the information, and what the man had to say wouldn’t have had an affect on the jury anyway.
Licon still can petition to have the full Court of Appeals hear his case, or directly petition the state Supreme Court.
A Franklin County Superior Court jury returned guilty verdicts against Licon in January 2013 for two counts of second-degree assault and one count of second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm. The assault charges included firearm enhancements.
Licon was sentenced to six years for the two gun enhancements. That time is mandatory and can’t be reduced for good behavior.
He also got a four-year, two-month term for the main charges.
Licon had nothing to say to the judge at his sentencing, but his attorneys claimed misconduct and errors by the prosecutors, and tried to get the guilty verdicts set aside and the case dismissed.
VanderSchoor, at the time, said he didn’t see a need to start over and would leave it to the Court of Appeals to decide if anything warranted a new trial.
Licon is housed at Clallam Bay Corrections Center on the Olympic Peninsula, according to the state Department of Corrections website.
The charges stemmed from a Feb. 10, 2012, altercation when Licon and his friends went to a West B Street apartment.
Licon is a gang member, and one of the victims, Sylvia Guerra, had been a member of another gang, though she said she’d cut ties with it years before.
Guerra told police the reason for the attack was because of her connection to her old gang, and said members of Licon’s gang had been trying to silence her by threatening her and her family, the opinion said. Guerra and her daughter, Selena Cortez, later said they didn’t believe the incident was gang-related, and thought Licon got into a fight with Guerra’s fiancé because he’d kicked his own brother out so Guerra could live in his apartment.
The victims said Licon rushed into the apartment, flashing a pistol in his waistband, and argued with Guerra until he pushed her aside and grabbed Guerra’s 18-year-old daughter, who had come to her aid, the opinion said. Licon then threw the teen to the ground and, after she grabbed a kitchen knife, wrestled with the girl and pistol-whipped her while Guerra begged for her daughter’s life.
Guerra also was hit in the face several times by another man.
Licon insisted he acted in self-defense when he struck Cortez, and denied attacking Guerra. He did agree at trial that he was not allowed to carry a firearm because of a prior felony conviction.
Prosecutors alleged at trial that Licon assaulted the two women to maintain his gang membership, advance his position in the hierarchy or influence his reputation. They said Licon retaliated against Guerra because her gang had disrespected him, according to court documents.
The defense tried to get all gang evidence tossed before trial, arguing that the only reason for the altercation was Guerra’s having the brother removed from the apartment.
VanderSchoor ruled the evidence was relevant because “the gang testimony showed motive or intent for the crime and explained the interactions of the parties,” documents said. The judge also determined at trial that the relevance of the evidence outweighed any prejudicial impact.
Licon and his attorneys, Norma Rodriguez and Michelle Alexander, continued to object to gang evidence throughout the trial.
The jury did not find that the assaults were gang related.