Two Lodi gang members are now serving prison sentences for attacking two brothers because one happened to be wearing a red belt, the color of their rival gang.
Isaias Valdez Valencia Jr., 22, pleaded guilty Thursday to a felony charge of assault with a deadly weapon, as well as admitting to serving a prior term in prison. He will now spend another five years in state prison, according to San Joaquin County Deputy District Attorney Keith McIntosh.
Enrique Junior Tapia, 18, pleaded guilty last month to second-degree robbery, and is serving two years in state prison.
Both men were charged in connection with a Feb. 24 assault and robbery on East Pine Street. Valencia brandished a knife during the robbery, McIntosh said.
The assault was one of a number of recent attacks on people who happen to be wearing red.
Several weeks later, a man was shot and wounded at Elm Street and Central Avenue simply because he, too, was wearing a red belt. Two teens, ages 16 and 17, were subsequently arrested on suspicion of attempted murder.
In yet another incident, suspected gang members threatened women who were holding signs for a car wash to help pay funeral expenses for a woman who died after childbirth. One of the women happened to be wearing a red shirt.
In the recent convictions, the prosecutor said both defendants are documented Sureno gang members — who use blue as their gang's color of choice. Rival Nortenos wear red.
Both men now have a strike on their criminal record, meaning that if they are convicted of certain crimes in the future, the sentences can be increased. A third strike can send someone to prison for life.
Valencia had previously served a 16-month stint in prison for being a felon in possession of a firearm and for vehicle theft, according to court records.