22 Years in Prison, Or Life: Gang Member Makes Difficult Choice

By Evelyn Valerio 

SACRAMENTO – Glaynne Tuatonga didn’t have a whole lot of choices at his pretrial hearing here in Sacramento County Superior Court last week.

He was given a choice of life in prison if he lost at trial, or 22 years if he took a deal. In the end, he took the plea deal but it took a while to get to that point.

With his own self-made recordings posted online of Tuatonga committing the crimes, not going to trial may have been a wise choice.

The 20-year-old, in-custody alleged “Crip” gang member is charged in a 2019 case with multiple felony counts, including  unlawful possession of a controlled substance, possession of firearms, robbery, aggravated battery and assault by means of force.

Tuatonga is also charged in another case with two felony counts of robbery and assault of a man, causing bodily injury.

Tuatonga, along with five other gang members, committed these felonies in order to stay in favor with other fellow gang members, claimed the prosecution.

Rather than face a jury trial, the district attorney offered Tuatonga a 22-year sentence and dismissal of other counts with the opportunity of parole after serving 15 years.

Tuatonga, along with five other Crip members, according to the prosecution, brutally assaulted a man in January of this year, punching and kicking him. And in February, Tuatonga committed robbery with a firearm while under probation.

Judge Kevin J McCormick noted Tuatonga may face a life sentence for the five felonies if he chooses to go to trial rather than take the 22-year plea deal offered by the district attorney.

Judge McCormick told Tuatonga that the mounting evidence against him would most likely lead to a life sentence, in part because Tuatonga recorded himself committing these felonies and posted recordings on Instagram.

Also, with the victim’s testimony and statements from the police. it would most likely result in a life sentence, said the judge, if Tuatonga did not take the plea deal.

The district attorney also offered to dismiss the previous gun offenses if Tuatonga served the 22 years concurrently.

However, Judge McCormick did not want to pressure Tuatonga into accepting this plea deal too quickly.

“I don’t want you to think that I’m pushing you,” Judge McCormick insisted, adding though that Tuatonga’s hesitation may cause the plea deal to expire.

Tuatonga responded with, “It’s a lot of time; I gotta think about it.”

His defense counsel, Mr. Kings, could be seen telling his client to “wake up.” Kings reiterated the importance of taking this plea deal, rather than going to trial.

Tuatonga, after being “encouraged” by his attorney, finally spoke up, and told the court he would accept the offer.

Judge McCormick asked the defendant again how what his plea was…Tuatonga said “no contest” to the battery against person bodily injury charge and the unlawful possession of a  controlled substance and loaded gun charge.

“I will find you guilty based on that no contest, do you understand that?” Judge McCormick asked.

Tuatonga, this time, quickly said yes.

Tuatonga is currently held in the Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center in Elk Grove.  As indicated by the court, the bail amount on both counts is set at $525,000. A sentencing date has been set for August 28.

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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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