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Key Witness Cross-Examined in Robles Murder Trial

Witness Rudy Gallegos was questioned by the defense in the Adrian Robles murder case Friday and Monday, after the jury watched a videotape of him being interviewed by law enforcement.

Robles, 22, is accused of fatally stabbing 44-year-old Robert Burke Simpson of Santa Barbara at Arroyo Burro Beach in April 2010. Gallegos was at the beach with Robles that day, and has testified that Robles was the man who stabbed Simpson in the neck.

The men grew up together in Santa Barbara and were both members of the Westside gang at the time of the stabbing. They spent that afternoon drinking beer at the beach with two female friends.

According to testimony, the stabbing came after arguments and a physical altercation between Robles’ group and Simpson’s group.

Gallegos was arrested in the case a few days after the murder, and the six-hour videotape of his interview was shown in its entirety on Thursday and Friday. He is now a witness for the prosecution and has been relocated out of Santa Barbara.

In cross-examination, defense attorney Steve Balash focused on Gallegos’ gang affiliation.

The witness, who is now 23, testified that he started getting out of the Westside gang when he was around 18 years old, but said he got the “P” tattooed on his left cheek years after that. The tattoo shows off his affiliation with the Westside Projects, a clique within the Westside gang.

Gallegos jumped into the gang at 13 or 14 years old, which he described as, “You get beat down for a period of seconds by fellow gang members.”

His moniker — given by the gang — is “Lil Rascal,” and is also his username on MySpace. In his picture, he can be seen “throwing up a ‘W’” for the camera.

Balash also asked why, if Gallegos was trying to remove himself from the gang, he was displaying gang signs in an online profile and was still hanging out with Robles and other known gang members.

Gallegos said he has problems with his memory — perhaps from drugs — and answered “I don’t remember” to many of Balash’s questions.

He testified that he started going to church and Bible study a lot in February 2010, and that the church community and his mother were supporting him, since he didn’t work at the time.

On that fateful April afternoon, an argument between the two groups led to a physical fight between Gallegos and Simpson.

“When this white guy called you a b****, those were fighting words to you, correct?” Balash asked.

“Yeah,” Gallegos said.

Balash asked about the importance of respect, and Gallegos’ concern about keeping his reputation with the gang, while Gallegos insisted that he was not carrying a knife that day and wasn’t bothered that he was easily bested in a fight by an older, bigger white man.

It was after that fight that Robles stabbed Simpson, Gallegos testified.

On Monday, Balash focused on some inconsistencies between Gallegos’ previous testimony and this month’s. Gallegos lied for the first few hours of his initial interview with law enforcement and convinced his mother to do the same — they insisted that he had been studying his Bible that day at the beach.

He also testified that he saw Robles punch Simpson, face to face, in the neck, drawing a lot of blood, when he said he “wasn’t that close” in the preliminary hearing, Balash said.

He also asked about the knife, which Robles allegedly showed off once all four people were in a car driving away from the beach, after the stabbing. Gallegos doesn’t remember where it come from, just that he saw what he thought was a knife and believed it to be bloody because it was “glossy.”

In earlier testimony, Gallegos had said it was quite dark in the car and wasn’t sure he saw a bloody knife.

The case is scheduled to continue next Monday in Santa Barbara County Superior Court.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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