SAN JOSE -- A San Jose woman who brought international notoriety to the city with a severed-finger-in-chili hoax was back in court in another alleged charade, this time accused of obscuring the fact that her felon son had a gun.
Anna Ayala, 47, and son Guadalupe "Junior" Reyes, 26, were arraigned in a San Jose courtroom Friday. Ayala was arrested Thursday on suspicion of being an accessory to a felony and filing a false police report.
Police say her son admitted to accidentally shooting himself in the ankle at their Alviso home, and because a felony burglary conviction barred him from having a firearm, the mother-and-son duo made up a story about him being attacked by two men.
And just like in 2005 when she planted a severed finger in a bowl of Wendy's chili and claimed to have discovered it -- grabbing worldwide headlines and costing millions in business, according to the restaurant chain -- police say she gave such compelling detail, this time in describing the alleged shooter, that they identified and interrogated a potential suspect.
In addition to charges of falsely reporting a crime, Reyes has been charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition.
Reyes, clad in an orange jail jumpsuit, used crutches to enter the courtroom Friday. Ayala used her hands to shield her face from media cameras during the brief hearing where both were assigned bail of $150,000, which Judge Philip H. Pennypacker set with their
Ayala served four years in prison for the chili finger caper, and Deputy District Attorney Bret Wasley said her "history of manipulating the system for her gain" warranted the bail amount.
Reyes, sitting in the defendant's gallery, mumbled something unintelligible in protest to Wasley's characterization of his mother and was admonished by a bailiff not to talk out of turn.
Outside the courtroom Mary Ayala stood up for her sister and nephew to reporters, saying they were good people. She said Reyes "makes mistakes like everybody else," but saved most of her words for his mother.
"I'm confused. I don't really know what to say," Mary Ayala said. "I'm worried for my sister. She didn't do (anything) wrong. I love her, and I will support her to the end."
Ayala and Reyes are scheduled to return to court March 1.
Contact Robert Salonga at 408-920-5002. Follow him at Twitter.com/robertsalonga.