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Man gets life without parole in Luxor pipe bomb case

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Mona Shield Payne / Special to the Sun

Porfirio Duarte-Herrera closes his eyes while listening to his sentencing via an interpreter during his hearing before District Court Judge Michael P. Villani Thursday at the Regional Justice Center. Duarte-Herrera was sentenced to life without parole for the Luxor bombing that killed Willebaldo Dorantes Antonio in May 2007.

Updated Thursday, Jan. 28, 2010 | 11:35 a.m.

Duarte-Herrera Sentencing

Porfirio Duarte-Herrera, center, sits in court waiting to be called for sentencing before District Court Judge Michael P. Villani Thursday at the Regional Justice Center.  Duarte-Herrera was sentenced to life without parole for the Luxor bombing that killed Willebaldo Dorantes Antonio in May 2007. Launch slideshow »

The second of two men found guilty of killing another man by detonating a pipe bomb on the top of the Luxor parking garage was sentenced today to life in prison without parole.

Porfirio “Pilo” Duarte-Herrera, 29, was sentenced on a charge of first-degree murder for a pipe bomb explosion on the garage roof of the Luxor on May 7, 2007, that killed 24-year-old Willebaldo Dorantes Antonio.

Dorantes Antonio’s girlfriend, Caren Chali, was near the explosion, but wasn’t injured.

Duarte-Herrera was sentenced today by District Court Judge Michael Villani.

“In this situation it’s clear from the facts that numerous other individuals could potentially have been at great risk of death,” Villani said in handing down his sentence.

Duarte-Herrera declined to speak at the hearing.

Moments before the explosion at about 4 a.m., Chali and Dorantes Antonio were seen on security cameras walking arm-in-arm from the Luxor, where they worked at Nathan's Famous, a hot dog stand.

A 24-ounce Styrofoam coffee cup on top of Dorantes Antonio’s car that had a motion-activated trigger disguised the bomb, which shredded Dorantes Antonio’s hand and lodged a piece of metal in his head when it exploded. The metal piece killed him.

Duarte-Herrera is also accused in a bomb explosion in the parking lot of a Home Depot store months before the incident at the Luxor. He is set to stand trial on those charges on Oct. 11.

Prosecutors said throughout the trial that Duarte-Herrera built the bomb for his friend and co-defendant, Omar Rueda-Denvers, Chali’s jealous ex-boyfriend.

Duarte-Herrera's attorneys contended he didn't know the victim or the victim's girlfriend and didn't have a motive in the crime.

Charles Cano, who represented Duarte-Herrera, argued against consecutive sentences. He said his client grew up in “utter poverty” and had only completed the third grade, leaving him susceptible to being manipulated.

“Due to my client’s lack of sophistication … I think he was manipulated in this case more than anybody else,” Cano said.

Prosecutors in their arguments today referred to detailed drawings of the bomb Duarte-Herrera made after he was arrested and called him “highly intelligent.”

Cano countered that creating the drawings and the bombs was a skill his client possessed but that he was more of an “idiot savant.”

“That’s a specialized skill I think he may have, but that doesn’t really correspond with the rest of his life,” he said. He also argued against running the sentences consecutively, calling it “ridiculous” because his client had been given life without parole by the jury.

Prosecutor David Stanton said Duarte-Herrera was more culpable in the case than his codefendant because he was the one who actually manufactured the bomb.

“The device and the way it was manufactured and detonated in this case show a conscious desire to have it be victim-initiated and for it to be lethal,” he said.

After the hearing, Nell Keenan, who also prosecuted the case, said she was satisfied with the judge’s ruling.

“We were really expecting at least the same sentence as the co-defendant or more, and that’s what the judge gave – he gave him more based on the fact that he is the bomb maker,” she said.

Duarte-Herrera had a history of making bombs, including the bomb he allegedly detonated in a Home Depot parking lot, as well as other bombs he created and detonated out in the desert, she said.

Click to enlarge photo

Defense attorney Charles Cano speaks on behalf of his client, Porfirio Duarte-Herrera, center, during his sentencing hearing before District Court Judge Michael P. Villani Thursday at the Regional Justice Center.

Rueda-Denvers' attorneys said although he had been with Duarte-Herrera on the night of the explosion, he had no knowledge of the bomb or of his friend's intentions. They said he just wanted to be reunited with the daughter he had with Chali.

Rueda-Denvers and Duarte-Herrera are both in the country illegally, authorities have said.

Rueda-Denvers was sentenced likewise earlier this month to life in prison without parole. Although the two men were tried together, jurors reached independent verdicts on each man's guilt.

At trial, both men were found guilty of first-degree murder, attempted murder and of related bomb possession charges. They were spared the death penalty, with jurors instead opting for life in prison without parole.

In addition to serving life without parole on the murder charge, Rueda-Denvers was sentenced to a consecutive term of 16 to 40 years for the attempted murder of Chali. He received two concurrent terms of two to five years for possession of an explosive or incendiary device and a concurrent sentence of two to 10 years on a charge of transportation of explosives.

Duarte-Herrera received the same sentence, with the two to 10 years on the transportation charge to run consecutively.

Besides the death penalty or life without parole, jurors could have given them up to 100 years with parole possible after 40 years, or life with parole possible after 40 years.

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