Ringleader of gang rape, murder sentenced to death
MIAMI (WSVN) -- The ringleader in the kidnapping, rape and murder of a South Florida teenage girl has been sentenced to death.
Just before noon Thursday, Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge William Thomas handed down the sentence to Joel Lebron for his role in the murder, rape and kidnapping of Ana Maria Angel in 2002. The judge wiped away tears while handing down the death sentence. "The nature and the quality pales in comparison to the enormity of the circumstances of this case," he said. "The court sentences you, Joel Lebron, to death."
The 18-year-old Angel and her boyfriend, Nelson Portoblanco, had just finished a walk on South Beach on prom night, back in 2002.
Lebron, the ringleader in a group of four other men, kidnapped the couple at gunpoint, stabbed Portoblanco more than 10 times and participated in the gang rape of Angel. The judge recited the horror the victim endured before she was slain. "She was surrounded by and under the total domination of five men armed with knives and a firearm who had just brutally raped her."
Relatives and loved ones winced at hearing the details repeated in court. In the end, the mother of Angel said, through a translator, that she was satisfied, calm and can finally tell Ana that there is justice.
The defense attorney for Lebron had argued that he was not the ringleader, had a rough childhood and was a model prisoner. The defense attorney asked the judge to give Lebron the sentence of life just like the other men involved in the attack. However, the judge denied the request and gave several reasons to his decision including the fact that the murder was committed during other felony crimes.
Investigators said the attackers had left Portoblanco for dead on the side of Interstate 95 in Broward County and later shot Angel in the head, in West Palm Beach, killing her instantly.
Portoblanco said, "We've been waiting for this for a really long time. It feels good. Justice was served today. It's just another step, it's a big door to close and to help move forward. It's been a long, long ... it's been very hard. I'm very happy with the results of today."
The family of Angel said the sentencing does not bring them any closure and that they will never have any closure, but at least they can move on with their lives. But the family will try to move on and continue with a foundation they established in the name of Angel.
Lebron's defense attorney said he plans to appeal the death sentence. He plans to continue to argue that two other men also convicted in this case were not sentenced to death.
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