EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Opinion

October 19, 2012

Editorial: La Guira victims finally receive justice

Johan Saint Clair cried in a Lawrence court Wednesday as a judge sentenced him to life in prison.

If only Saint Clair had been so thoughtful about the consequences of his actions on Sept. 6, 2010, two people might be alive today.

Justice for Saint Clair’s victims was a long time coming. But the 32-year-old Lawrence man finally got the sentence he deserved.

There is no question about Saint Clair’s guilt in the shootings at the now-closed La Guira nightclub at 205 Broadway. Saint Clair opened fire in the crowded club with a .40 caliber Smith and Wesson handgun, killing Juan Esteban Suazo-Soto, 34, of Hyde Park, and Amarilis Roldan, 24, of Dorchester. La Guira waitress Valerie Verdejo and patron Jose Luis Medrano Baez, were wounded.

A week into his trial, Saint Clair suddenly entered a guilty plea. Just the day before, his lawyer said he was prepared to testify that he was not the real shooter.

If the trial had proceeded and Saint Clair had been convicted of first-degree murder, he faced a sentence of life in prison with no possibility of parole. After pleading guilty to second-degree murder and other charges against him, Saint Clair was sentenced to life in prison with a possibility of parole after 15 years. He knew a good deal when he saw one.

“Obviously, you ended the lives of two people without any justification whatsoever ... lives were destroyed because of your actions,” Judge Richard Welch told Saint Clair in Lawrence Superior Court. Welch said the trial evidence against Saint Clair was “absolutely overwhelming.”

“I’ve never seen a more overwhelming case and I’ve been on the bench close to 18 years,” Welch said.

Saint Clair was seeking revenge against “joloperos,” home invading thieves who previously robbed Saint Clair of a large amount of cocaine. Suazo-Soto was allegedly connected to criminal activity while Roldan was an innocent bystander.

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