MARTINEZ -- Before being sentenced to prison Friday, two Concord gang members made a promise to an Arizona woman whose ex-husband was killed in an auto wreck they caused while fleeing police in 2011: They will turn their lives around in the name of their victim, Joseph Smith.

"Every day from the day it happened, I wake up with nothing but guilt," said 26-year-old Joshua Simmons. "If I could turn back the hands of time, I would. I just want you to know I'm truly sorry."

"I feel guilty, I feel sorry for your family, your son, and you and everybody that had to pay for my mistakes," said Mauro Gutierrez, 27. "Doing 14 years, it's going to set me straight."

Gutierrez and Simmons each pleaded guilty in June to voluntary manslaughter with gang and gun-possession enhancements for killing Smith, a 46-year-old Flagstaff, Ariz., resident with roots in the Bay Area. On Friday, Gutierrez was sentenced to 14 years in state prison, and Simmons was sentenced to seven.

Both men were parolees and had methamphetamine in their systems when they led Concord police on a high-speed chase after an officer attempted to pull them over because Gutierrez, the driver, was talking on his cellphone. They had a gun and drugs in their vehicle and didn't want to risk being sent back to jail for parole violations, according to prosecutor Andrea Tavenier.


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The pursuit ended quickly when Gutierrez ran a red light at Highway 242 and Grant Street and struck Smith's car, killing him instantly.

Smith was on his way home after his brother's funeral -- the second brother he had lost in as many months. Despite the loss, he was in good spirits because he had just learned he was going to become a grandfather, said Belinda Smith, the mother of his children.

She spoke Friday about how Smith was her best friend, even after their divorce, and a wonderful father to their three children.

In a rare move, Judge Clare Maier allowed Belinda Smith to ask the defendants directly: "How do you feel?"

"You both are so young. You still have time to turn your life around. Please, please, please for the sake of this man here," Belinda Smith said, holding up a photo of Joseph Smith.

They promised they would; Gutierrez said he had a son of his own and wants to get back to him one day.

Joseph Smith's mother, Helen De La Vega, said that unlike her daughter-in-law, she could not forgive the defendants. It's been two years, but it seems like yesterday that she lost Smith and her two elder sons.

"Now I have nothing," she said. " He was 46, but he was still my baby."

Contact Malaika Fraley at 925-234-1684. Follow her at Twitter.com/malaikafraley.