DA: Norteño leader considers plea bargain
by Denise Ellen Rizzo / Tracy Press
Apr 04, 2012 | 6419 views | 5 5 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A man described by law enforcement as the leader of the Tracy Norteño street gang, John Pantoja, is reportedly considering a plea bargain offer for a 15-year prison sentence.

According to Deputy District Attorney Mark Dennings, the prosecution and defense arrived at a tentative agreement for a 15-year prison term, and Pantoja is expected to accept that offer at his April 16 court hearing.

“Supposedly, he is going to plead at the next court date,” Dennings said. “It’s a good conclusion for the case. Putting away a very bad person for quite a while.”

Pantoja, 36, of Tracy, was arrested during a multi-agency sweep in June that targeted local members of the Norteño gang. Dubbed Operation Gateway, the sweep netted about 30 documented gang members.

Officials said the Tracy operation was a spinoff of another police sweep across the Central Valley a day earlier that resulted in the arrest of 101 documented members of the Nuestra Familia gang.

Pantoja remains in custody at San Joaquin County Jail in French Camp on a $5.8 million bail. He faces a variety of charges, including street terrorism, receiving stolen property and selling narcotics.

“He’s highly ranked in the Norteños,” Dennings said. “It’s resolution, or we’ll set for a trial. I’m not waiting anymore.”

The local ramifications of Pantoja getting sentenced to state prison are unknown, and local law enforcement said it could have negative or positive results.

“It could have two effects,” Detective Ricardo Hernandez said. “Damaging to them (the gang) with no leadership, but it could have the effect that they could almost run wild.”

He said gang members under Pantoja’s leadership were known to at least follow the group’s internal rules, if not the law.

“It’s a good thing to be able to put away a high-profile leader that he was,” Hernandez said. “A guy that they almost idolized — positive for us. Good for us that he’s gone.”

Russell Humphrey, Pantoja’s attorney, was unavailable for comment.

Pantoja’s next court hearing will begin at 8:30 a.m. April 16 in Department 35 of the San Joaquin County Superior Court in Stockton.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
April 05, 2012
To bad he actually WON'T serve 15 years.....
April 05, 2012
After all these years tpd still doesn't get it. Locking up this so-called leader is merely a small bump in the road, a ripple in the water, if I may. With an older "leader" gone their will of course be a successor if their isn't already. A younger, refreshed, more dangerous leader. Dangerous because his youth gives him the perception of being invisible, fearlessness & ignorance being his strongest weapons. With an army at his feet he will be ready to prove himself worthy of his hrecentlyacquired title. Meanwhile innocent patrons & residents of tracy are caught in the crosshairs of these violent tirades. In the end they are looked at merely as sacrificial lambs, casualties of an underground enterprise thats seriousness has been padded & hidden by politicians & city officials. Dictators out of site, therefore out of mind, but nevertheless as dangerous as ever. Through these corrupt factions that smile in our face, take our money, & pretend to care, the streets will bleed. Nobody is safe. And to believe otherwise would be a direct result of these blinding sheathes piled over our eyes.. These violent delights have violent ends.
April 05, 2012
They are just like terrorist groups. Get rid of one and more want to step up. Hopefully by keeping the pressure on them like these gang sweeps it can help clean up our streets. The other issue is that our prison system is a cake walk compared to most of the rest of the world. That needs to be fixed too.
April 05, 2012
I wouldn't give him ANY deal unless he coughed up ALL of his gang members and rival gang members' names and proof of any crimes, etc, so we can put them ALL in jail.
April 06, 2012
I'm with you on that, give up all names or be on lockdown for life. Time to take off the gloves with terrorist punks and make no deals. Hard labor would change the outlook of these idiots who seem to look forward to reuniting with their homeboys. Make the prisons like the ones in Mexico.

We encourage readers to share online comments in this forum, but please keep them respectful and constructive. This is not a space for personal attacks, libelous statements, profanity or racist slurs. Comments that stray from the topic of the story or are found to contain abusive language are subject to removal at the Press’ discretion, and the writer responsible will be subject to being blocked from making further comments and have their past comments deleted. Readers may report inappropriate comments by e-mailing the editor at tpnews@tracypress.com.