Jantzen hits drive-by accomplice with six years

Billie Acuna

Billie Acuna

KINGMAN - Billie Acuna received little leniency from Commission Lee Jantzen Tuesday morning, when he was sentenced to six years in prison for his role in a drive-by shooting.

Acuna 20, of Kingman, was originally charged with five counts of aggravated assault and one count of drive-by shooting as an accomplice to his brother Pasqual.

On Dec. 31, Pasqual Acuna, Billie and a juvenile brother allegedly drove to Raymundo and Gustavo Mendoza-Canchola's home to confront them about something that had happened to their sister.

Billie and Pasqual allegedly threatened the Mendoza-Canchola brothers with a bat and a gun. A gun allegedly went off and the Acuna brothers fled the scene.

A truck full of people from the Mendoza-Canchola home then followed the Acunas down Unforgiven Lane. Pasqual Acuna allegedly shot at the truck full of people while Billie drove.

Billie accepted a plea agreement that dismissed the assault charges last month.

"I know I made some wrong decisions in the past," Acuna told the court, "but I'm going to try and change my life this time around."

A family friend told the court that Acuna had made some bad decisions in the past and needed a second chance. There wasn't much to do for young people in Kingman, and Billie fell into the wrong crowd, the friend said.

Deputy County Attorney Derek Carlisle was less forgiving.

"There is nothing that shows that he is going to take advantage of rehabilitation," he said.

He pointed to a prior adult felony conviction and Acuna's juvenile probation record as proof.

"The Acuna's went looking for trouble," he said. "What they did shows a level of disregard for human life. I understand there's not much to do in Kingman or Mohave County, but that doesn't mean you go around shooting."

"He's a very young man," said Acuna's attorney, Elana Sears. "It's not surprising that he didn't take advantage of the programs offered through the juvenile probation department. Teenagers usually aren't old enough to know what's being offered to them."

"He has come to realize that this is it. 'I have to become a man and stay out of trouble,'" she said. "He realizes that he has to go in a different direction."

Jantzen said reading the pre-sentencing report was like reading something out of the Wild, Wild West.

"You obviously have some issues with your brothers, issues with your anger and issues with the law." Jantzen said. "This is not the way society handles situations like this."

"I don't think you're evil," he said. But the aggravating factors, more than one person in the vehicle and Acuna's prior felony conviction, outweighed the mitigating factors of Acuna's age and the fact that no one was hurt in the shooting.

Jantzen then sentenced him to six years in prison with 146 days of credit for time served. The most Acuna could have received according to the plea agreement was seven years.

His brother, Pasqual, is also charged in several cases with multiple counts of drug possession and aggravated assault. He is also charged with one count of theft, one count of a drive-by shooting and one count of first-degree murder. He shares the murder charge with John Leland Neal, 20.

Pasqual Acuna's next hearing is set for July 15.