General Crime

* Otto Emil Koloto Of Gilroy Found Guilty Of Murdering Philip Lacy In Downtown Palo Alto July 13, 2008

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A Gilroy man was found guilty today of first-degree murder for fatally shooting 27-year-old Philip Lacy during a robbery in downtown Palo Alto two years ago. Jurors deliberated a day and a half before convicting Otto Emil Koloto, 23, of the July 13, 2008, robbery and slaying of Lacy, who was shot in the head near City Hall.The jury, which had eight women and four men, also found Koloto guilty of the sentence-enhancing allegation of discharging a firearm.Koloto, who pleaded not guilty to one count of murder during the course of a robbery, faces life in prison without the possibility of parole when he is sentenced May 11. He was acquitted of an enhancement for intentional killing.Stifled, but audible sobbing could be heard from Koloto’s mother and three of Lacy’s friends when the verdict was announced at about 11:30 a.m. today. Koloto hung his head.A best friend and roommate of Lacy’s, who declined to give his name, said outside court that he was pleased justice was served. “I’m happy,” he said. “It’s the first joy through all this.”Mua Huhana, Koloto’s mother, also stepped outside and sobbed quietly. She appeared overcome with emotions and declined to comment.Juror Victor Moreno, a retired business analyst from San Jose, said throughout deliberations, the jury mainly grappled with whether the incident was a robbery or a drug deal that had gone wrong. “On the first day, everyone gave him the benefit of the doubt,” Moreno said. He said by using a step-by-step process of elimination method, jurors were able to reach a consensus.”The minute we determined Koloto’s facts weren’t believable, we had no choice but to convict him of first-degree murder,” Moreno said. He added, “I’m hoping the judge will give him some benefit of the doubt, that it was just the circumstances that caused the situation to occur. “Deputy District Attorney Matt Braker was pleased with the verdict.”We’re thankful that justice was done, but it’s not a happy day,” Braker said.Koloto’s attorney, Andy Gutierrez, said he was disappointed with the verdict, but praised the jury’s diligence.”I think the length of the deliberations was remarkable and shows that the jury took this very seriously,” Gutierrez said. He said he plans to file an appeal early next week.Braker said in his closing argument Monday that Koloto had ordered Lacy at gunpoint to give him his gold chain bearing a diamond-encrusted cross and when Lacy had refused to comply and instead lunged at him, Koloto fatally shot him in the head. Braker said Lacy’s beloved chain was the “heart of the case” deemed implausible Koloto’s explanation that the chain had snagged on his sweatshirt when Lacy lunged at him.Gutierrez told jurors the crime was not a random, opportunistic act of violence. He argued Koloto opened fire in self-defense when Lacy stepped out to attack Koloto because he refused to buy drugs from Lacy.

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