A member of the 18th Street Gang caught with a gun after a drug deal in Somerville last year - a gun he may have acquired as protection after he was beaten and stabbed by MS-13 members - was sentenced yesterday to a year and a day in prison.
The US Attorney's office in Boston reports that after he serves his sentence for being an alien in possession of a firearm and ammunition, Robert "Mysterio" Portillo, 24, will face deportation to his native El Salvador. Portillo pleaded guilty in June.
According to court documents, Somerville Police arrested Portillo on Pearl Street on Jan. 13, 2018, after watching three men in a Honda buy some marijuana. When they frisked him after stopping the car, they found a semi-automatic handgun loaded with five rounds and with an obliterated serial number in his pocket. The US Attorney's office took the case because Portillo acknowledged to police he was from El Salvador and because of its ongoing efforts to crack down on both MS-13 and the 18th Street Gang in the Boston area.
In a request to US District Court Judge Rya Zobel, prosecutors had asked for an 18-month sentence, which they said would balance Portillo's previously clean record with the need to send a message to local gang members:
Through repeated prosecutions of gang members, among other steps, the government seeks to dismantle these gangs, end of the cycle of violence, and relieve the gang’s harm to the community. A sentence of imprisonment here will help send a strong message that gang members may not arm themselves as part of their gang activities.
In the request, prosecutors acknowledged why Portillo may have had a gun, but said that, ultimately, that was no excuse:
Portillo himself, regrettably, appears to have been the victim of gang violence, having been threatened, jumped and stabbed by people he believed to be members of MS-13. As a result, Portillo’s possession of the gun fits squarely at the intersection of guns, drugs and gangs. It is well known that drug sales, and the corresponding fighting over drug turf, motivates gang violence. ... [W]hile it is unfortunate that PORTILLO himself has experienced gang violence, adding a firearm to this combustible mix could very well have led to much greater violence.
In her request to the judge, Portillo's attorney asked for a sentence of a year and a day in part because Portillo had never been in trouble with the law before and had always had full-time employment, in part because deportation would effectively add to the length of his incarceration because he would not be immediately sent back to El Salvador but would instead by detained in an immigration center before being sent away.