THE BRONX — Jose Muniz said “I want the truth to be known.”
So, as the 22-year old convicted killer and gang member apologized to Junior Guzman-Feliz’s family and said he prayed on his knees every night “for God to give them strength”— he revealed, for the first time, the motive in the 15-year-old’s murder.
Muniz said it had nothing to do with a woman or a sex tape.
It had everything to do with a friend of his, he told the court—a pal named Carlos Cabral who was shot in the eye two nights before Guzman-Feliz was fatally stabbed outside a bodega.
Muniz said of Guzman-Feliz, “It may be true he was not a gang member, but the day my friend was shot, he was there.”
Later, Guzman-Feliz’s older brother, Manny Ortiz, told reporters outside the Bronx Hall of Justice, “You cannot give credit to a criminal. He was found guilty.”
Earlier, Muniz had insisted his actions were not equal to what some of the other gang members did.
Muniz was the one who started the assault with weapons on the bodega sidewalk, but added, “I did not kill him. I was there, but I did not have an intention and that’s why I used the other side of the machete.”
Muniz’s lawyer, Martin Goldberg, had long argued in court that Muniz had used the “flat” part of the blade in the attack and claimed on Friday the machete wound was so superficial “a tube of ointment could have treated Muniz’ wound” to Junior.
The lawyer also fumed about one of the Star prosecution witnesses, Kevin Alvarez,
who had chased Guzman-Feliz with his car, cut the terrified teen off by St. Barnabas Hospital, and then beat Junior in the bodega, before dragging him outside to the waiting mob.
“Can anyone say the actions of my client were any worse than Kevin Alvarez?” Goldberg asked.
Kevin Alvarez revealed at trial that if he testifies truthfully for the prosecution in multiple cases, his guilty plea to Manslaughter 1 will be dropped and he will be released with time served.
Muniz’ co-defendant, Jonaiki Martinez Estrella, took responsibility for the fatal stab wound to Junior’s neck and said “I feel bad about the way this kid died. My intention was not to cause the death of this kid.”
Estrella added, “That day, I was under the influence of alcohol and drugs, and I did not know what I was doing.”
Judge Robert Neary called Estrella’s reasoning “excuses” and said what he did was cowardly. Estrella received the stiffest sentence: Life without parole.
Jose Muniz, 22, was sentenced Friday to 25 years to life in prison with the chance of parole.
His attorney said in court that his client had a troubled childhood.
His mother went to jail on a drug charge when Muniz was just three years old, and her son was raised by another woman, he said. When his mother got out of jail, she suffered a stroke, the lawyer said.
He added that Muniz slept in city hallways and worked two jobs so he could send money to his mother for medicine.
It was then that Muniz met the reputed leader of the Los Sures sect of the Trinitarios gang, Diego Suero, who gave Muniz a place to say, he said.
The judge spared Muniz a sentence of life without parole, but imposed a sentence of 25 years to life.
“You disgraced your family” and the judge said it was troubling that Muniz yelled “Trinitarios to the death” as he left court on the day of the verdict. “You threw your life away” at the age of 21.