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Judge limits time for plea in slaying

July 15, 2003|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

A Chambersburg, Pa., man charged in the New Year's Day 2002 stabbing death of an Indiana man asked Monday for more time to consider a plea agreement offered by the Franklin County District Attorney's Office.

Antonio Barcenas, 22, of 20 W. Washington St., was granted a continuance in his criminal homicide case to the September trial term, but he has to make up his mind about the plea agreement before then, Franklin County Court of Common Pleas Judge John R. Walker said.

"Aug. 1 the plea agreement is off the table and the case goes to trial," Walker told Barcenas, who has been in the county prison since he was charged in the death of Javier Brena-Lugo, 31, of Zionsville, Ind.

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"If he doesn't plead by Aug. 12, he goes on trial for first-degree murder," Assistant District Attorney Nancy Meyers said after the continuance was granted.

Barcenas is charged with stabbing Brena-Lugo on Jan. 1, 2002, at 38 W. Queen St. According to court records, both men were among a group of people celebrating on New Year's Eve and into the next morning. According to court records, an altercation took place at the house on Jan. 1.

Barcenas left the house, returned to his home and came back to 38 W. Queen St., according to court records. The affidavit of probable cause alleges he stabbed Brena-Lugo in the abdomen shortly after noon and fled to his house, where he was arrested about half an hour later.

Meyers declined to say what the prosecution was offering Barcenas.

A conviction on a charge of first- or second-degree murder in Pennsylvania each carry mandatory sentences of life in prison without parole, according to state law. The prosecution did not file a notice of aggravating circumstances in the case, so the death penalty was not an option.

If Barcenas were allowed to plead to third-degree murder, he would face a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison. Under state law, the mandatory minimum sentence for third-degree murder is half the maximum, or 20 years.

This was the eighth continuance granted in Barcenas' case, defense attorney Eric Weisbrod said during the hearing. Weisbrod told the court that Barcenas, who apparently speaks little English, also wanted a transcript of all discovery materials and his preliminary hearing translated into Spanish.

"He could have asked for the transcript in Spanish months ago," Walker said. He asked translator Tonia Fernandez if she could provide a translation in a week.

"Absolutely not, your honor," Fernandez replied. "The transcript of the preliminary hearing alone is 61 pages."

"Well then, I guess Mr. Barcenas is going to trial," Walker said. "The court is not going to have the heat put on it."

Meyers said she believed Barcenas was entitled to a review of the evidence, but not necessarily a translation.

Javier Brena-Lugo's brother, Joaquin, who lives in Chambersburg, sat though the hearing Monday.

"We don't know what's going to happen," he said. "I guess we'll have to wait. That's all we can do."

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