Two Gang Members Plead Guilty to Eastside Attacks

Michael Cardenas and Augustine Cruz Are Both on the Proposed Gang Injunction List

Two Santa Barbara men will head to prison for nine years after admitting responsibility for two violent assaults on the Eastside in 2009.

Michael Cardenas — who in March was found guilty of second-degree murder for his role in the killing of George Ied — and Augustine Cruz each pleaded guilty to two counts of assault causing great bodily injury with gang enhancements related to two attacks in November 2009.

Both Cardenas and Cruz were indicted by a criminal grand jury in April 2011. They are both on the city’s proposed gang injunction list.

Michael Cardenas
Click to enlarge photo


Michael Cardenas

The victim of the first attack — who testified during Cardenas’s murder trial — said he was walking home the night of November 19, 2009, when he passed by a group of three men and two women. One turned around and threw a punch at him and missed, he said. But the victim ended up on the ground and was punched and kicked. He was told to “shut the fuck up” and “calm down,” and the suspects demanded his wallet and money. The man said he was kicked too many times to count, but it was at least 20, including several blows in the head.

In photos, the footprint of a shoe could be seen on his forehead. No weapons were used, but “they were stomping my head into the pavement,” he said.

The victim identified Cardenas and Cruz as two of the three people who assaulted him, though he admitted, “at the time I didn’t know it was Augie until someone told me it was.” Initially, he didn’t identify Cardenas either because he was scared, he said.

Augustine Cruz
Click to enlarge photo


Augustine Cruz

On cross-examination, the victim initially admitted he was only 40 percent sure who did it, then in front of a Grand Jury that number doubled to 80 percent. He said he became more confident in the identifications because he didn’t want to think about it at the time. “I didn’t want to remember,” he said. He still lived with his family near the crime scene, he said, so never said anything.

After the attack, Augustine Cruz’s brother, Miguel, returned the items that were taken — a wallet and satchel — to the victim. Miguel also told a police officer he heard his brother and Cardenas talking outside a window about how they didn’t realize at the time who they had robbed. (The victim knew Cruz and Cardenas from school.) On the witness stand during the Cardenas trial, Miguel denied this was actually the case, however, and claimed he said it because the officer was “lying to me so I bullshitted him back.” He wanted the officer out of the room as quickly as possible, so he told him want he wanted to hear.

The second attack, which occurred about 10 minutes later, left the victim beaten and unconscious in the middle of the street. He had been hit and stomped on the head multiple times.

The two will be sentenced in August. Cardenas is yet to be sentenced for Ied’s murder. When he is, he will receive the nine years in this case, and then the 15-years-to-life sentence for second-degree murder will be tacked onto that.

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