Three bar bouncers who pleaded to the involuntary manslaughter of another man were sentenced Friday morning.
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Rodolfo Hernandez, in-custody, Ruben Lizarraga and Sean Canilao, out of custody, appeared with their lawyers for their judgment and sentencing hearing after previously pleading out.
Canilao was the only defendant to speak to the court. He said he “feel(s) really sorry” for what happened to Derek “Zippy” Penaranda. He noted there were “bad circumstances. I’m still very regretful.”
Wayne Penaranda, the victim’s father, then spoke. He began with a letter on behalf of his wife, Debbie.
“‘At this juncture, it’s difficult to believe that the sentencing is less than what we anticipated,'” he read. “‘I cannot express in words how this tragedy has affected myself, our family and our community.'” In her letter, she noted her son had his whole life ahead of him.
“‘They beat him until he was unconscious, held him down and prevented those present to provide him with assistance or aid on his behalf. Instead of allowing local law enforcement to intervene and defuse the situation, they chose to execute punishment and as a result, our son’s life was taken in this act.'” He was left in a vegetative state, having been severely brain-damaged.
Wayne then read his own statement. He said, “There are no words which can adequately convey the true depth of despair, sadness, grief and sorrow that has engulfed our family and community.” He noted that more than 300 people attended the memorial, with condolences coming from Hawaii and England.
“Zippy’s younger brother, Patch, was battered, restrained and forced to watch his severely beaten brother, gasping, take his last breath and die. That image haunts him. Forever,” Wayne said.
He noted that his wife “cannot be consoled or given comfort,” and has since been unable to go back to work. “She is trapped in a spiraling cycle of ‘what ifs,’ often numbed by drink and medication.”
The family had been in South Lake Tahoe on May 19, 2012, to not only celebrate Zippy’s birthday, but their own 39th wedding anniversary. “May 19th had always been cause for a double celebration. It will never again be a joyous date on our calendar.” Zippy died Oct. 12, 2012.
Due to his own inability to focus at work led to Wayne being discharged. Tests have shown that he suffered a series of mini-strokes, “most certainly attributed to witnessing my beautiful son slowly, painfully wither and die.”
In anticipation of getting married and having children, Zippy had given Katy, his girlfriend, a Volvo station wagon, Wayne said. “Those children will never be. Zip’s branch on our family tree will bear no fruit. Katy loved Zip equally, constantly at his side, foregoing her job and living at Renown, then a condo in Reno.”
Wayne then spoke of his “beautiful son, Zippy, battered; broken; wasting away, having lost 100 pounds; in a constant, excruciating pain; his muscles hard as stone, contorted and gnarled; retreating into whatever place he had taken refuge.” He would rub his son’s temples, whispering in his son’s ear. “I don’t know if the tears in his glazed eyes were mine or his, but in my heart, in my soul, I could hear my once-vibrant con call to me, ‘Dad, take me home.’ Even if Zip’s assailants were to receive the maximum sentence allowed within the penal statutes, at least they’re alive.”
Judge James R. Wagoner then began the sentencing.
All three received four years felony probation. Hernandez was to serve 364 days in jail. But, having already attained credit, he would be released to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, likely to be deported to Mexico.
Canilao received 180 days in county jail, with 60 days straight time and 120 on alternate sentencing — house arrest. Though actual restitution was not given, Wagoner noted that the restitution “will be a big one.”
Lizarraga received 240 days in county jail, 60 days in actual jail and 180 days on alternative sentencing of his choice.
After the hearing, Canilao’s attorney, Dain Weiner, said, “This case is a tragedy for everyone involved.” He said his client was “remorseful for what ultimately never should have happened to Mr. Penaranda. His sincere hope is that everyone can recover and move on with their lives.”
Adam Weiner spoke on behalf of his client, Lizarraga. “It’s very, very tragic all around. It should never have happened. Everyone involved found themselves in an impossible situation. Our hearts go out to the family who lost a loved one.”
Hernandez’ attorney, David Cramer, and prosecutor Joe Alexander did not have any comments.
Wayne Penaranda said he “would have liked to have seen harsher sentencing,” but “it is what it is.” He said he could have pressed Alexander to go to trial, but the outcome would likely be the same. “Rather than prolong this any further, just get it under the bridge. I can’t see surviving going through a years-long court (trial).”
He noted that he is involved in a civil case against the same defendants as well as some corporate entities involved, but was unable to expand.
Hernandez, he said, likely got the sentence of one day less than a year as that would allow him the possibility to reenter the country. He said that although Hernandez was here illegally, it was not his fault, having been brought over at a very young age by his parents. “It’s somewhat ironic,” he said, as Hernandez is a “convicted felon of a violent crime, and one day makes all the difference in the world.”
The defendants were bouncers at Mo’s Place, a South Lake Tahoe bar where Zippy Penaranda was celebrating his 30th birthday. Penaranda was allegedly asked to leave due to unruly conduct but instead punched bar owner Manish “Mo” Patel, knocking him unconscious. The three bouncers reacted and detained him, knocking Penaranda unconscious. Blood flow was deprived to his brain long enough to put him in a persistent vegetative state. Firefighters, through CPR, were able to regain a heartbeat. Penarenda died from his injuries a few months later, in October.
Contact Cole Mayer at 530-344-5068 or [email protected] Follow @CMayerMtDemo.