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Article updated: 3/15/2013 1:43 PM

New sentencing hearing for Aurora man who killed two

By Harry Hitzeman

A 40-year-old man, who was sentenced to mandatory life in prison for two gang-related Aurora murders he committed when he was 17, will receive a new sentencing hearing.

An appellate court panel recently overturned the mandatory life term for Michael Luciano, formerly of the 700 block of East New York Street, Aurora.

No new sentencing date has been set for Luciano, who was convicted of the June 1989 shooting death of Willie Arce, and found guilty in the 1990 Halloween killing of Albert Gonzalez.

Luciano was picked up in June 2007 and the two murder case charges and were the result of an investigation called "Operation First Degree Burn," in which federal and local authorities reopened numerous cold cases while targeting Aurora area gang members.

He was convicted of the 1989 murder in June 2008 and of the Halloween murder in January 2009. Those were upheld on appeal several years ago.

Despite vacating Luciano's sentence recently, the court panel ruled he could still face a prison term that would keep him behind bars for the rest of his life.

In the appellate court's ruling, judges cited previous case law in which courts decided a "mandatory" life sentence was unconstitutional when sentencing juvenile offenders.

"Thus, because defendant here was sentenced to a mandatory term of natural life without parole, his sentence is invalid and we vacate it. We find that defendant is entitled to a new sentencing hearing at which the trial court may consider all permissible sentences and is not limited to the sentence of life without parole," the appellate panel wrote.

Luciano received a sentence of 38 years for Arce's murder and even if he gets the 20-year minimum for the Gonzalez murder, he will still be in prison until his early 90s.

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