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MS-13 gang member who killed mom, boy has conviction upheld

Heriberto Martinez is seen in this mug shot

Heriberto Martinez is seen in this mug shot from April 16, 2010. Credit: Photo by

A federal appeals court in Manhattan on Wednesday affirmed the conviction and life sentence for a gang member convicted of racketeering in a case that involved the notorious 2010 murder of a Hempstead woman and her 2-year-old son.

The Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected several arguments from Heriberto Martinez of Far Rockaway, a leader of the Salvadoran street gang MS-13, including claims his rights had been violated by use of an anonymous jury during the 2013 trial before U.S. District Judge Joseph Bianco in federal court in Central Islip.

The appellate judges said Martinez was a member of “a large, well-organized, and violent gang with many members who were not incarcerated,” the crimes were violent and there was “substantial evidence of attempted and actual interference with the judicial process” by co-defendants.

The three-judge panel also found sufficient evidence to uphold his conviction of murder-in-aid-of-racketeering in connection with the killing of Vanessa Argueta, 19, who prosecutors said was killed because she showed disrespect to MS-13. Her child was killed to eliminate the risk he might seek revenge.

The court also upheld convictions of co-defendant Carlos Ortega for conspiracy, racketeering and murder, but reversed a conviction of Ortega on a firearm-related count and said he should be resentenced. Ortega, like Martinez, was sentenced to life in 2013.

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