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MS-13 member acquitted by jury of Baltimore triple shooting

A convicted MS-13 gang member has been found not guilty of a triple shooting that left one dead.

Jaime Navarette-Mejia, a 36-year-old Gaithersburg man who federal authorities say was also known as "Violento," was found not guilty on all charges by a Baltimore city jury related to the October 2014 shooting, which took place in the 7000 block of Fieldcrest Road amid a family celebration.

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Santos Nelson Castillo-Portillo, 34, died in the shooting, and two others were injured.

"The state had some extreme credibility issues with their witnesses," said public defender Scott Reid, who represented Navarette-Mejia. "There was enough evidence to show that there was a distinct possibility that the shooter was misidentified. Based on my discussions with the jury afterwards, I believe that was the basis for their finding."

Navarette-Mejia remains in federal custody, after pleading guilty last summer to federal racketeering conspiracy, including attempted murder, for being a member of the La Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, gang. He was sentenced to more than 10 years in federal prison in that case.

In his plea, Navarette-Mejia admitted that he and another MS-13 member traveled to a restaurant in Laurel in March 2014 and got into an altercation with other patrons. He was asked to leave, and fired five shots from a .380 caliber handgun at the patrons when they later emerged from the restaurant. One of the shots struck a victim in the foot.

Federal prosecutors said a firearms examiner determined that the gun used in that shooting had been used in a 2013 murder, an attempted murder in Hyattsville in 2014, and a murder that occurred in Frederick in 2013. Those crimes were believed to committed by co-conspirators of Navarette-Mejia, authorities said.

Reid said Navarette-Mejia has "a number of detainers" and is facing deportation to El Salvador upon his release from federal prison.

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