MARTINEZ -- A Richmond man was sentenced to six years in state prison Friday for his role in the 2011 revenge killing of a 22-year-old man in a Rodeo housing complex.
Mikaele "Ben" Taito, 36, pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter in the shooting death of James Newman Jr. at a hearing in March, a few weeks after a Contra Costa County jury hung 8 to 4 in favor of acquitting him on murder charges.
The District Attorney's Office says Taito and Rodeo resident Anthony Wiley, 21, opened fire on Newman and his friends the night of May 30, 2011, as revenge for Newman's group getting the better of Taito's 17-year-old nephew during a fistfight earlier in the day. The fight was over a minor incident within the Bayo Vista housing complex in which one of the groups drove too closely to the other's vehicle, prosecutor Jason Peck said.
Newman was driving his friends in a van on Tullibee Court later that night, when the group was fired upon and Newman was fatally shot in the leg. A defense attorney argued at Taito's trial that evidence suggested that Newman's group also fired rounds, and one of them had pulled out an assault rifle during the fistfight.
Taito testified that he never fired a gun that night. He said he was trying to act as a peacemaker between the two groups of young men, according to attorneys in the case.
In a letter to the sentencing judge read in court Friday, Newman's aunt wrote that she believes Taito deserves more prison time.
"At some point, I hope that Mr. Taito has a chance to reflect on his actions that night and gains just a little insight into the pain and emptiness that our family feels every day without James," she wrote.
Taito did not speak at the sentencing. Wiley remains charged with murder and shooting into an occupied vehicle. His trial is scheduled to start in October.
Contact Malaika Fraley at 925-234-1684. Follow her at Twitter.com/malaikafraley.