Convictions of three men upheld for drug deal-gone-bad in Pasadena

A state appeals court panel today upheld the convictions of three men serving life prison sentences without the possibility of parole for a drug deal that went bad in Pasadena and left a 21-year-old man dead.

The three-justice panel from California's 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected the defense's contention that there was insufficient evidence to support the jury's finding of a special circumstance allegation of murder during the commission of an attempted robbery against Peter Parra, Kevin Cabrera and Raymond Conchas.

The three were convicted of first-degree murder, attempted robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery for the Jan. 15, 2013, shooting. The victim, Zane Goldstein, died of his injuries two days later.

In a 59-page ruling, the appellate court justices found that "substantial evidence proved that Parra was the actual killer."

The justices wrote that cell phone evidence "proved that Conchas was the mastermind of the plan to rob Zane, the culmination of which was Zane's death." Cabrera "was a willing and essential participant" by pretending to
be the one who had texted the victim, luring him into a secluded carport, while Conchas and Parra concealed themselves behind a hedge and approached undetected.

In a ruling last year, a separate appellate court panel overturned co-defendant John Michael Piepoli's sentence of life without the possibility of parole, finding that there was insufficient evidence to support a jury's robbery special circumstance finding against him. He was tried separately from Parra, Cabrera and Conchas.

In the Nov. 29 ruling, that panel found that Piepoli "did not plan the criminal enterprise that led to Zane's death," had no role in supplying any firearms and was not present at the scene of the attempted robbery or
Goldstein's shooting death.

"Under the circumstances here, there was insufficient evidence as a matter of law that appellant was a major participant in the robbery," the justices wrote in Piepoli's case.

Piepoli repeatedly told a police detective that he thought the plan was merely to scare Goldstein into turning over his marijuana and he wasn't aware that Goldstein had been shot until he was informed the next morning by police,
according to the ruling.

That appellate court panel ordered the case against Piepoli to be sent back to the trial court for re-sentencing.

A fifth man, Ward Lacey IV, was sentenced to 15 years to life in state prison after pleading guilty to second-degree murder.