One of four Beloit men accused in the 2016 shooting death of a 5-year-old boy pleaded guilty to a reduced charge in Rock County Court on Thursday.
Eric Salazar Mota, 24, pleaded guilty to a charge of party to second-degree reckless homicide, which carries a maximum sentence of 25 years in the prison system.
As part of a plea agreement, charges in three other cases were dismissed but can be considered at sentencing: party to substantial battery with intent to cause bodily harm, battery, child abuse while intentionally causing bodily harm, criminal damage, fleeing an officer and two counts of disorderly conduct.
Judge Michael Haakenson ordered a pre-sentence investigation and set sentencing for March 8.
Mota and four others originally were charged with party to first-degree intentional homicide, which carries a mandatory life sentence.
They were accused of being in a vehicle from which shots were fired into another vehicle in what appeared to be an act of gang-related revenge on Jan. 22, 2016.
The shots were intended for the driver, Austin R. Ramos Sr., who once had gang affiliation but no longer did, Beloit police said at the time.
Austin R. Ramos Jr. was riding in the back seat. He was struck by a bullet and was pronounced dead at Beloit Memorial Hospital, according to the criminal complaint.
In court Thursday, Mota calmly answered Haakenson’s questions but briefly bit his lower lip as he uttered the word “guilty.”
Mota’s attorney, Eduardo Borda, said two others in the vehicle were never charged, but they “came forward to the authorities and apparently explained that they had nothing to do with it, that the reason they came forward (was) because it was something that they apparently could not bear to live with. My client’s not in that position. … I think he understands the reasons why the other two persons took a walk on the case.”
Mota will be second of four defendants to be sentenced.
Sergio R. Ortiz, 26, of Beloit was the man who pulled the trigger. He pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of first-degree reckless homicide and was sentenced Nov. 9 to 40 years in prison and 20 years of extended supervision—the maximum allowed for that charge.
Hugo Martinez, 21, is scheduled for a plea hearing Jan. 24.
Isaac W. Torres, 26, is scheduled for a plea-and-sentencing hearing Feb. 6.