News and Press Releases

Defendant Sentenced to Serve Nearly 14 More Years after 33-year State Sentence

January 25, 2008

WILBER JOSE SORTO, 26, of Renton, Washington, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to 166 months in prison and three years of supervised release for Assaulting Federal Officers and Discharging a Firearm During a Crime of Violence. One year ago, January 24, 2007, SORTO was convicted in King County Superior Court of Murder in the First Degree and Unlawful Possession of a Firearm. Last March, SORTO was sentenced to 407 months in prison. U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour ordered that SORTO’s federal sentence run consecutive to the state sentence, meaning SORTO will be behind bars for more than 45 years.

According to records filed in the case, on October 4, 2004, SORTO was seen chasing Antonio Pinto on Cloverdale Street in Seattle, Washington. SORTO shot Pinto. When Pinto fell, SORTO approached and, ignoring Pinto’s pleas, shot him numerous times – at least once in the head. Pinto died at Harborview Medical Center. Two weeks later, two agents of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) were conducting surveillance related to a document fraud investigation in Federal Way. They encountered two men who they thought could be related to the investigation. In fact, one of the men was SORTO. When the agents identified themselves and police, SORTO ran and then pulled a gun, firing at one of the agents. But for the quick actions of one of the agents, drawing SORTO’s fire, the other agent could have been killed as he rounded a corner searching for SORTO. SORTO escaped from law enforcement in Federal Way, but was captured five days later leaving a restaurant in Los Angeles. The gun used to fire at the agents was found in his car.

In asking for a long consecutive sentence, Assistant United States Attorney Norman Barbosa noted SORTO’s extensive criminal history. “Mr. Sorto is a violent gang member who first became involved with the gang MS-13 at the age of 12, when he was still living in his native El Salvador. Since moving to the United States in 1996, Mr. Sorto has been convicted of numerous assaults and firearms offenses as well as a first degree murder involving the gangland shooting of Antonio Pinto,” Barbosa wrote in his sentencing memo.

Judge Coughenour agreed saying SORTO’s crime was “extremely serious.” Judge Coughenour imposed the consecutive sentence saying the public needed to be protected.

The case was investigated by the Federal Way Police Department, Seattle Police Department, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, with assistance from the Los Angeles Police Department and the FBI.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Norman Barbosa.

For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110.

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