An MS-13 street gang member from Central Islip was convicted Monday in the execution-style murder of a teenage mother and her 2-year-old son after prosecution witnesses testified that the woman showed "disrespect" for the gang.
Adalberto Guzman, 21, faces life in prison, but he was only 17 at the time of the slaying on Feb. 4, 2010, and might be ineligible for a sentence of life without parole.
The jury in U.S. District Court in Central Islip heard two weeks of testimony in the case, and took barely five hours of deliberations over two days before convicting Guzman of conspiracy, murder and firearms violations.
He is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 9 before U.S. District Judge Joseph F. Bianco. He asked lawyers in the case to submit legal arguments on whether Guzman can be sentenced to life without parole.
Loretta Lynch, United States attorney for the Eastern District, said after the verdict that, "Few other acts illustrate so clearly the heartless nature of this criminal enterprise known as MS-13. Guzman will now be held to account for his allegiance to this band of killers."
Guzman, who joined an MS-13 street gang in California when he was just 10, killed Vanessa Argueta, 19, and her son, Diego Torres, because she had shown "disrespect" to a gang member who was her ex-boyfriend, prosector Raymond Tierney told jurors last week during his summation.
Prosecutors said that after watching his mother being shot to death -- once in the head and once in the chest -- the boy clung to the leg of one of the shooters, crying. Guzman and the others then decided to kill the 2-year-old because he might grow up and seek revenge, prosecutors said.
The judge refused to allow photographs of the toddler's head to be introduced as evidence because they might be overly prejudicial.
Another MS-13 member, Rene Mejia of Patchogue, has pleaded guilty to the killings and also awaits sentencing. Argueta's former boyfriend, Juan Garcia, also an MS-13 member, is still being sought by the FBI.
Guzman had originally intended to kill only Argueta, prosecutors said. Witnesses gave conflicting accounts of how she was lured into the woods where she was murdered. She took along young Diego because she could not find a sitter, prosecutors said.
The trial provided a look at the inner working of the MS-13 gang, which called their killings, "missions." Members were required to generate income, attend meetings and enforce loyalty to the gang above all others.
Jurors saw color photos showing the similarity between tattoos on gang members in jail at its base in El Salvador and gang members on Long Island. They saw how gang graffiti were sprayed to mark MS-13 turf on Long Island, and was sometimes sprayed outside its territory in an attempt to intimidate rival gangs.