PATERSON - One of four people charged in the shooting death of a Clifton man outside his family’s liquor store pleaded guilty in court Friday.
Darial Pena was 17 years old when he participated in the murder of 21-year-old Leandro Mendoza. Pena waived his right to a juvenile court hearing and instead pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter.
Pena admitted in court that his hand was on the trigger when the gun went off outside the liquor store that Mendoza’s family owned on Lexington Avenue in Clifton. Mendoza was struck and died. The shooting happened on Oct. 16, 2015.
Pena was sentenced to 16 years in state prison. In exchange, he will cooperate with investigators and testify against the remaining defendants.
Mendoza’s family cried in court as the sentence was read. Mendoza’s sister Viviana Borja says that all of her siblings are close. Mendoza was one of seven.
“We were always together. Raised to always be together and that’s what my mother instilled in us, which is why we are all here together now,” she says.
Prosecuting attorneys say that the remaining defendants face less serious charges.
One of the cases against a juvenile defendant has already been resolved.