Juan Martínez Matos pleaded guilty yesterday in a Puerto Rican court to last year’s murder of Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado. He was sentenced to 99 years in prison.
The case gained national attention last year, both in regard to the brutality involved, but also within the context of the newly lawful Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force had hoped this would become the first such case where the crime would be treated under the new law. Mercado López, a Puerto Rican native, was found partially burned, decapitated and with arms and legs dismembered, on the side of the road near his home town Caguas, Puerto Rico on November 14th.
Reportedly a number of weapons violations were dropped in order to get the guilty plea.
The Associated Press reports: “Nothing is going to bring Jorge Steven back, but today, a bit of justice was done,” said Pedro Julio Serrano, a spokesman for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
Martinez’s attorney, Celimar Gracia, told Primera Hora newspaper that prosecutors dropped several weapon-violation charges in exchange for the plea. “He felt this was the best way to end this case,” Gracia was quoted as saying.
The report appeared in http://blogout.justout.com/?p=17638