Prosecutors said a Round Lake man "lit the fuse of gang violence" when he ordered a co-defendant to shoot a teen he thought was a rival gang member outside a minimart in Round Lake Beach.
However, the defense attorney for Jose Rebollar, 26, of the 500 block of Carol Lane, told a Lake County jury during opening statements Tuesday his client should not be stereotyped as a gang member. Attorney Robert Ritacca said Rebollar had no idea 18-year-old Gabriel Gonzalez of Zion would be shot to death in a parking lot on the 1000 block of Fairfield Road just after midnight March 10, 2013.
"Every piece of evidence will show you that (Rebollar) is innocent," Ritacca said.
Rebollar faces up to 75 years in prison if found guilty of murder for Gonzalez's death. He is held in Lake County jail on $3 million bail.
Authorities said Rebollar -- also known in court documents as Jose Rebollar-Vergara or Jose Vergara-Rebollar -- confronted Gonzalez inside the One Stop Food and Liquor Store about being a rival gang member because of the way he was wearing a hat.
Assistant State's Attorney Reginal Mathews told jurors Rebollar wears his cap tilted to the left because of his gang affiliation. Mathews said Gonzalez wore his hat "tilted fashionably to the right," a sign to Rebollar indicating an opposing gang rivalry.
Rebollar told Gonzalez in the store to fix his hat, said Mathews, who added Gonzalez was not a gang member.
After the initial verbal altercation, Gonzalez walked out of the store at 12:40 a.m., and Rebollar and co-defendant Jose Garcia, of Mundelein, followed and continued to verbally intimidate Gonzalez, Mathews said. In the parking lot, Rebollar made a motion to have the 19-year-old Garcia shoot Gonzalez with a concealed 22-caliber handgun, Mathews said.
One of the 10 bullets fired pierced Gonzalez's aorta and killed him, Mathews said.
"He started it off ... and Garcia finished it with a bullet," Mathews told jurors, adding that, by law, an accomplice to murder is held as accountable for the murder as the killer under certain circumstances.
Garcia was found guilty and sentenced to 62 years in prison earlier this year for killing Gonzalez.
Ritacca argued the state has stereotyped Rebollar as a gang member, and that Rebollar did not know Garcia had a weapon. Ritacca urged jurors to use their "common sense" and "best judgment" when viewing evidence to be introduced by prosecutors during the trial.
"Stereotypes are very, very dangerous when making decisions in this matter," Ritacca said. "There is no evidence that shows (Rebollar) helped or abated (Garcia)."