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Activist turns from a gang mission to a life’s mission
by Jessica Garcia
Jul 18, 2009 | 413 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
<a href= mailto:dreid@dailysparkstribune.com>Tribune/Debra Reid</a> - Roberto Nerey used to be in a gang and now he helps young people avoid the lifestyle.
Tribune/Debra Reid - Roberto Nerey used to be in a gang and now he helps young people avoid the lifestyle.
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The words of Washoe County District Judge Steven Kosach echo relentlessly in Roberto Nerey’s mind: “I want you to go in (to prison) as a man and come out as a man and when you come out, I want you to help your community.”

Nerey tells the story of his 1991 sentencing for charges of conspiracy to commit murder and murder because it’s the story of an undeserved favor granted to him with a reduction from 12 years to two years in prison.

It’s the story of how Nerey went from exacting revenge on the gang that shot at his house just after he graduated from Hug High School to counseling today’s youth entangled in the very same gang population.

It’s the story of the rehabilitation of a 19-year-old Latino immigrant, somewhere between a teenager who believed in the American dream and an adult who faced murder charges. Nerey explains his journey of going from gang involvement to prison for his role in Reno’s first documented drive-by shooting.

“When he sentenced me, he only gave me two years,” Nerey recounts. “I looked at my lawyer and went, ‘What? Two years for murder?’ He looked at a kid’s eyes. ... He knew I wasn’t set out to kill nobody. I made a mistake, bad enough to go to prison, but not bad enough for him to throw away the keys.”

In the past, Nerey has spoken with the Sparks Tribune about the importance of his sentencing from which his passion for at-risk and hardcore gang youth stems.

This week, he speaks on a more personal level and details his life more intimately — and with more pain — than he has in the past. A recent event involving the shooting of his own son has triggered confusion, anger and a feeling of senselessness as the very work that he’s invested himself in has left an emotional scar on him.

Still, he continues to offer help to teens as long as they’re willing to accept it.

To read Nerey’s story, see the Wednesday edition of the Daily Sparks Tribune.
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