A district judge on Monday unsealed a letter from Las Vegas police officers seeking the release of a convicted felon and gang member from jail who, once freed, is accused of killing another man.
Judge David Barker also ordered redacted from the letter the names of five detectives who sought Raul “Sparks” Gonzalez’ release from the Clark County Detention Center.
The letter, dated, Dec. 20, 2013, stated: “At the request of the detectives at Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department … the above Defendant will be entering a plea in the above case today. The detectives have also requested that the Defendant be released after entry of plea in this case.”
At a hearing Monday, prosecutor Danielle Pieper, who wrote the letter, requested the names be redacted for the officers’ safety.
A Review-Journal investigation revealed that Gonzalez, an influential gang member, was a career violent criminal facing a life in prison in a robbery case when he agreed in December to inform on fellow 28th Street Gang members to the FBI-led Las Vegas Safe Streets Gang Task Force.
After the letter was filed under seal with Barker, Gonzalez pleaded guilty in the robbery case, his $250,000 bail was dismissed and he was freed on his own recognizance.
Metro said Gonzalez was never officially signed as an informant for any police agency. The FBI said the agency was not involved in his release from the county jail and he was not a source for them.
After Gonzalez was arrested on murder charges, Metro began an internal investigation to determine why the violent felon was ever let out of jail and if any Metro policies were violated or should be adjusted.
Gonzalez wouldn’t have met the department’s criteria for informants, which excludes criminals with a violent history. His 15-year record includes a murder charge for stabbing Wilbur “Speedy” Rodriguez during a 1999 fight between the 28th Street and 18th Street gangs. Gonzalez pleaded guilty in that case to a reduced charge of voluntary manslaughter and served the low end of a five-to-15-year prison term.
It’s unclear if the Metro internal investigation is complete. Chief Deputy Al Salinas did not return a call requesting comment Monday.
Salinas has said that while in jail Gonzalez reached out to the FBI task force, but was never given a specific task by law enforcement when he was released. It is not known if the defendant provided any usable intelligence to the task force.
Gonzalez was indicted earlier this year on seven felony counts, including one count each of murder with use of a deadly weapon, discharging a firearm into an occupied structure and possession of a firearm by an ex-felon, and four counts of child abuse or neglect.
The defendant confessed to homicide detectives he fired multiple rounds with a .357-caliber revolver through Eric Paul Montoya’s front door, fatally wounding him Jan. 14.
According to an arrest report, Gonzalez confessed he shot Montoya because he believed his friend knew he was an informant and was planning to attack him.
Meanwhile, sentencing in Gonzalez’s robbery case was delayed until July 7. He faces a life prison term as a habitual criminal.
Gonzalez has pleaded not guilty to fatally shooting Montoya in January. A trial is set for Oct. 13.
Contact reporter Francis McCabe at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-224-5512. Find him on Twitter: @fjmccabe