SANTA CRUZ -- In exchange for a seven-year prison sentence, a Watsonville man pleaded no contest Tuesday to robbing a Lee Road gas station at gunpoint and being an active participant in a gang.
Eric Anthony Alonso, then 19, and a 16-year-old entered the Chevron station near Highway 1 and Riverside Drive last October, flashing a gun at the clerk and stealing money from the cash register before fleeing in a stolen blue Audi, Santa Cruz County sheriff's deputies said.
The two were arrested after a State Parks ranger found the Audi down an embankment near Manresa State Beach. The duo ran off, but Watsonville police caught them, authorities said.
The younger teen was sent to Juvenile Hall and not identified.
Tuesday, Alonso appeared in court in a gray button-down shirt and black slacks with his pregnant partner and his father. He walked up to the podium to join his attorney in front of Judge Paul Burdick with a slight smile and a bit of swagger.
He pleaded no contest to the two charges, and prosecutors dropped the gang charge from a felony to a misdemeanor.
Prosecutor Charlie Baum also dropped attempted robbery charges alleging Alonso had walked into Jack in the Box on Green Valley Road and Main Street earlier the same day, carrying a gun, and then walked out after employees locked themselves in a back room.
Tuesday, attorney Lisa McCamey said her client was only admitting to the facts of the gas station robbery and gang allegation to take advantage of the plea bargain. Outside court, she declined to elaborate.
Burdick told Alonso he faced a maximum 17-year sentence for robbery with a gun, and that serious felony "strike" would remain on his record for the rest of his life. He warned Alonso that if he fails to appear in court for sentencing or commits another crime, the deal is off.
Asked if he understood the ramifications of his plea, and the relinquishing of rights to defend the charges, Alonso answered "Yes, sir."
Burdick sent sentencing for Jan. 8. Alonso will have to serve 85 percent of his sentence, Burdick said.
Police reported finding $150 near the Audi.
Follow Sentinel reporter Cathy Kelly on Twitter at Twitter.com/cathykelly9