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Brothers and dad go to prison Neal Putnam | Sat, Mar 22 2014 12:00 PM

A man who shot a Chula Vista man to death over a derogatory text message was sentenced March 14 to 27 years and four months in state prison. His father and brother each got 14 years for their roles.

Almost 30 friends and family members of Luis Espinoza, 27, showed up with buttons adorned with Luis’s face in San Diego Superior Court for the sentencing of Ruben Acosta Jr., 23, of El Cajon.

Acosta pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in the shooting death of Espinoza and to wounding Antonio Barrios in the leg on July 24, 2012, at 3:17 p.m. at a two-story apartment on Fir Street in San Diego that was run by a youth program.

Acosta received 11 years for manslaughter, 10 years for personally using a gun in a homicide, plus six years and four months consecutively for assault with a deadly weapon in wounding Barrios.

His father, Ruben Villa Acosta Sr., 42, and brother, Rodney Acosta, 20, of El Cajon, also pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and assault. Murder charges were dropped. They were all ordered by Judge Jeff Fraser to pay $3,934.84 for Espinoza’s funeral and $5,285.69 in other expenses.

Armando Espinoza, the victim’s father, quoted many Bible verses in his statement and said he has forgiven the gunman, his father and brother. Espinoza told them they should ask forgiveness from God, and he ended by saying he was praying for the Acosta family.

The probation report for Ruben Acosta Jr. said his girlfriend received an unfavorable text message calling him “a snitch” from someone at the apartment. Acosta called his father and brother who came over and all three banged on the apartment door.

Espinoza opened the door and Ruben Acosta Jr. yelled the name of a gang and shot him three times in the abdomen and hand. They fled the scene, but the father and Rodney Acosta were arrested in El Cajon 40 minutes later. The gunman fled to Mexico but was arrested Aug. 13, 2012.

“I know I’m the one to blame. I’m truly sorry for your loss,” said Ruben Acosta Jr. to the victim’s family.

Fraser remarked how the homicide was “disturbing” and “how unnecessary” was the response by the three men to a text message. “They are a threat to civilized people,” said Fraser about the father and his sons.

They all received credit for the past one and a half years spent in jail and fines of $294 each.

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