Witness testifies victim accused of being snitch
Jan. 24, 2012 at 7:02 p.m.
Updated March 13, 2012 at 10:14 p.m.
A 2006 shooting that injured Paul Benavides was just one of multiple assassination attempts made on his life, a witness said during the first day of the trial of Robert Lindstrom and Robert Saldana.
Lindstrom, also known as "Stutter," and Saldana, aka "Wedo," both of Victoria, are charged with engaging in organized criminal activity by conspiring to cause serious bodily harm to Benavides, aka "Pow Wow," by shooting him.
All three men are members of the Hermanos Pistoleros Latinos street gang.
Covered in tattoos and dressed in a yellow jail jump suit, witness Raul Morino Gonzales testified that the hit on Benavides' life came after he testified against fellow HPL member Joe Mendoza in the case of the 2003 shooting death of 6-year-old Robert "Polo" Conchola.
Gonzales, a former officer with HPL, said Mendoza tasked Lindstrom and Saldana as well as Jeffrey Soto, Claro Lopez and Marcus Perez with getting rid of Benavides.
"They did their cameo - a direct order to a gang member to complete a specific job," said Gonzales, 47.
After several tries from 2003 to 2006, Benavides was finally shot while on a lunch break from his job.
Benavides was hit in the arm and hip, said Victoria County District Attorney Steve Tyler during opening arguments.
"It almost became a running joke that Stutter with his poor eyesight couldn't shoot Benavides from 10 feet away," said Victoria County District Attorney Steve Tyler. "It was a sore point."
Lindstrom's court-appointed attorney Alex Luna questioned the reliability of Gonzales and other witnesses expected to testify for the state during the trial.
Gonzales, who is serving 80 years in prison on charges for drug possession and engaging in organized criminal activity, agreed to testify against the defendants in exchange for a lenient punishment against his wife, Cynthia Gonzales, who faced charges of drug trafficking and attempted murder.
Cynthia Gonzales is on probation.
"Those witnesses, you could describe them as being prostitutes. They have sold their information and the state has bought this information," Luna said during opening arguments. "The evidence is going to show that Lindstrom didn't participate or conspire in the shooting of Paul Benavides."
The trial will resume at 9 a.m. on Wednesday.