Source: Inland Valley Daily Bulletin.
A Pomona gang member sentenced while still a teen to 162 years in prison for a drive-by shooting that left the victim paralyzed is the subject of a documentary now streaming on Netflix.
“They Call Us Monsters,” created by Ben Lear – son of Norman Lear, features Pomona resident Jarad Nava and two other teens at Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall in Sylmar and raises the question whether charging them as adults is fair.
The program follows the trio as they are enrolled in a 20-week screenwriting class, some of which is included in the documentary, as well as snippets from the resulting short film, “Los.”
While the documentary presents the back stories for all three, it includes a lot of detail from Nava’s case, filming in Pomona Superior Court during his trial and sentencing.
His attorney, Ontario-based Aniko Hoover, is presented as not putting up a vigorous defense, passing on the opportunity to cross examine the state’s witnesses and saying to the camera that if you’ve opted to go to trial instead of taking a plea agreement, “You’re supposed to lose.” She told the Daily Bulletin the editing portrayed her in a false light and the family, and Nava himself, were pleased with her representation.
His victim, Yesinia Castro tells the filmmaker that while Nava shouldn’t have to spend his whole life in prison, he should at least get 50 years.
But back at Juvenile Hall in the San Fernando Valley, Nava is depicted as a regular kid, enjoying a dip in a pool for an hour a week, batting around a crunched piece of paper and goofing off in some of the screenwriting classes.
At age 18, Nava was convicted of a 2012 shooting in February 2014.
In the Sept. 29, 2012 incident, Nava, who was 16 at the time, and another defendant, Alex Sandoval, drove up on four girls in a car in Pomona. Just before the shooting began, Nava yelled, “You’re going to die,” police said at the time.
Two of the girls escaped without injury. One of the girls was shot in the thigh and another girl was shot in the abdomen, authorities said. Castro is paralyzed from the chest down.
Fearful the suspects were still following them, the girls drove straight to Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center and called police.
Nava’s case went to trial, where he was convicted of four counts of attempted murder and one count each of shooting at an occupied motor vehicle and possession of a short-barreled rifle or shotgun. Jurors also found true gang and gun allegations.
Nava received his century-plus sentence. Sandoval got 30 years.
A Pomona detective at the time called the Castro’s testimony in the subsequent case “very courageous.”
At trial, prosecutors argued Nava and Sandoval targeted the girls because they were either sisters or girlfriends of rival gang members.
Hours after the first shooting, another shooting occurred, this one in retaliation of the first. A police sergeant saw it unfold before his eyes, according to published reports at the time, and chased the two gang members, who were eventually caught, arrested, charged and convicted.
In plea agreements, Armando Wardle accepted a 12-year sentence in prison and Frank Dominguez agreed to eight.
Last year, a state appellate court upheld Nava’s 162-year sentence.
The three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected the defense’s contentions the trial court judge prejudicially erred by allowing jurors to hear about Nava’s interview with police and that there was insufficient evidence to support a gang enhancement on a firearm possession charge against him.
According to the documentary, a fairly new law – which allows minors convicted as adults to life sentences to be granted a parole hearing 15 years after turning 18 – Nava is eligible for parole in 2037 at the age of 43.
He’s serving his time at Chino’s California Institution for Men.