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Gang leader guilty in the first ever supermax prison murder of Mexican Mafia boss

April 23, 2015  |  Posted by: JammedUp Staff
Gang leader guilty in the first ever supermax prison murder of Mexican Mafia boss Silvestre "Chikali" Rivera and his attorney sit at the defense table during his first degree murder trial in U.S. District Court in Denver.

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A federal jury has convicted a prisoner at the highest-security prison in the U.S. of murdering a leader of the Mexican Mafia by helping to stomp him to death in the exercise yard.

Silvestre “Chikali” Rivera faces a mandatory life sentence in prison for the murder of Manuel “Tati” Torrez , 63, that happened April 21, 2005, at the Administrative Maximum U.S. Penitentiary, or ADX, in Florence.

Federal Judge Robert E. Blackburn will sentence Rivera at a later hearing. Rivera is currently serving time for a string of bank robberies in Arizona and California. The two-week trial culminated in the dramatic testimony of Rivera describing why he felt he had to kill Torrez to save his own life. But it was apparent the jury did not accept his claim of self-defense.

An accomplice, Richard “Chuco” Santiago, faces a possible death penalty for taking a leading role in killing Torrez. Rivera said Santiago tried to get Torrez to back down from a death threat he made against Rivera.

“We are gratified by the jury’s verdict today, which reaffirms the rule of law and rejects the rule of violence, including among prison inmates,” U.S. Attorney John Walsh said in a statement. Defense attorney David Lane said he was disappointed with the verdict and an appeal will be filed.

Sureño hit man Arcadio Perez testified during the trial that on the same day Manuel “Tati” Torrez marked inmate Silvestre “Chikali” Rivera for death, the intended target and an accomplice struck first, beating Torrez to death in the yard of Administrative Maximum U.S. Penitentiary, or ADX, in Florence, Colorado.

Mexican Mafia Murder Trial Rolling In Rocky Mountains

Mexican Mafia Murder Trial Rolling In Rocky Mountains

Torrez’s death on April 21, 2005, marked the first murder in the history of “Supermax,” the highest-security prison in the U.S. Both men claim that they didn’t attack until after Torrez told them he ordered their murders. Rivera is claiming self-defense.

Perez, a bald man with a salt-and-pepper goatee, testified that he felt conflicted when Torrez ordered the hit because Rivera had been his cellmate and the two men were friends.

But he said he couldn’t ignore the order from Torrez, a powerful gang leader. When he told Torrez that he got along with Rivera, the gang leader threatened his life.

“If you don’t do it, it will be done to you,” Perez said through a court interpreter. Perez could speak only Spanish. “Because he was a person who had a lot of power. He was aggressive. He was a bully. He was arrogant.”

Under cross-examination, prosecutor Valeria Spencer asked why he didn’t intervene on behalf of Torrez once the gang leader came under attack.

Perez replied that Santiago, like Torrez, is a member of the Mexican Mafia and he is not.

“When two members of the Mexican Mafia are involved in a fight, we don’t get involved. … Their problems are not our problems,” Perez said.

Other witnesses have testified that the Mexican Mafia is an elite Hispanic gang on par with the Italian Mafia with only about 300 members across the country. There are 56,000 Sureños, like Perez, and they take orders from the Mexican Mafia.

He later testified under re-direct questioning by the defense that if a Sureño intervened in a fight between two made members of the Mexican Mafia, “That person would be killed.”

Prosecutors contend that Rivera and Santiago could be seen circulating through the yard conspiring with other inmates in the minutes before they pounced on Torrez in a corner of the yard not always covered by surveillance cameras. Other inmates continued exercising during the fatal beating as though nothing was happening.

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