MARTINEZ -- Two gang members who were in a car that struck and killed a motorist in Concord as they fled police two years ago pleaded no contest Wednesday to voluntary manslaughter.

Driver Mauro Cruz Gutierrez, 27, and passenger Joshua Simmons, 26, both of Concord, will serve 14 and seven years, respectively, as part of a deal that included gang and gun-possession enhancements. The pair, originally charged with murder, are scheduled to be formally sentenced July 19.

The gang members fled police Oct. 25, 2011, after an officer attempted to pull over Gutierrez for talking on his cellphone while driving.

The pair crashed into the car of Arizona resident Joseph Smith, who was in the Bay Area for his brother's funeral, after running a red light at Highway 242 and Grant Street. Smith, a 46-year-old father of three, was returning to Flagstaff, Ariz., when he was killed. His family plans to attend the sentencing hearing, prosecutors said.

After fleeing police, Gutierrez ran stop signs, crossed a double yellow line and drove toward oncoming traffic to pass slower vehicles during the minute-long pursuit.

Preliminary tests showed both gang members had smoked methamphetamine before the collision. The pair had a long felony rap sheet, with Gutierrez having a history of recklessly evading police.


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After a 2009 Contra Costa conviction, Gutierrez signed a form acknowledging he could be charged with murder if anyone died as a result of his intoxicated driving.

Both were parolees, and prosecutors believed they both wanted to avoid a violation that would have sent them back to jail. They believe the passenger Simmons, whom they called a senior gang member, encouraged the flight.

Contact Matthias Gafni at 925-952-5026. Follow him at Twitter.com/mgafni.