|(citizensvoice.com) - A reputed gang member has been convicted of first-degree murder in the fatal stabbing of a rival during a melee on a Hazleton street in January 2011.
Rodolfo Hiraldo-Perez, a 25-year-old citizen of the Dominican Republic, faces a mandatory life sentence under state guidelines.
Jurors deliberated for little more than an hour before reaching the verdict in Luzerne County Court.
They also convicted Hiraldo-Perez of criminal conspiracy to commit homicide. Charges of aggravated assault, criminal attempt to commit homicide, and conspiracy to commit aggravated assault were not sent to the jury.
Hiraldo-Perez sat between his attorney and a translator as the jury forewoman read the verdict. He appeared calm and reserved, clenching his left hand into a fist briefly and then brushing the same hand against his short black hair and forehead.
According to witnesses and surveillance video, Hiraldo-Perez stabbed Ruiz repeatedly after codefendant Angel Sanchez knocked him to the ground with a barrage of punches.
Sanchez, 21, a member of the Dominican gang Trinitarios, and Ruiz, a member of the Bloods, fought hand-to-hand at first, with Sanchez quickly gaining control.
Sanchez agreed Monday to plead guilty to third-degree murder, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 to 40 years in prison.
At the same time as the stabbing, another member of Sanchez's entourage, identified by prosecutors as Willis Gonzalez, chased Judah Hope, 22, across the street and shot him.
Ruiz and Hope were found lying on an East Green Street sidewalk at the intersection of North Wyoming Street at 1:45 a.m. Jan. 16, 2011.
Ruiz, who suffered multiple serious injuries including knife wounds to his torso, was dead on arrival at a local hospital, police said. Hope sustained gunshot wounds and was flown to Lehigh Valley Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.
Gonzalez remains at large.
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