General Crime

James Lee Allen Gets 12 Years in Prison for Robbery Murder of Antonio Torres in Oakland

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An 18-year-old boy was sentenced today to 12 years in state prison for his voluntary manslaughter conviction for his role in the brazen daytime robbery and fatal shooting of a gardener in Oakland’s Fruitvale District in May 2011. James Lee Allen, who faced a murder charge before he entered his plea to voluntary manslaughter Nov. 15, was one of four teenagers who were arrested in connection with the robbery and death of 42-year-old Antonio Torres while Torres was working in the front yard of a client’s home in the 1600 block of 34th Avenue at about 1 p.m. on May 20, 2011.

Prosecutor Angela Backers said, “These were four individuals who wanted to rob a particularly vulnerable and completely innocent man who had his back turned while he was working.” Backers said the robbery and fatal shooting of Torres was “heinous and sickening” and alleged that the suspects were “hunting Mexicans because they are the most vulnerable people to rob” since they often are reluctant report crimes to the police. She said the teens targeted Torres because they wanted to steal his gold necklace and his iPod. Backers said Allen robbed Torres but prosecutors have charged another teen, Jonathan Laverne Johnson, who was 17 at the time of the incident but is now 19, with being the person who killed Torres by shooting him in the back.

At the end of a preliminary hearing last week a judge ordered Johnson to stand trial on a murder charge and a special circumstance allegation that he committed a murder during the course of a robbery. Backers said although it’s alleged that Johnson was the person who killed Torres, Johnson and the other suspects all knew that he was armed with a loaded black revolver and was prepared to use it when they robbed someone. Backers said one of the other suspects has pleaded no contest to first-degree murder and armed robbery and another has pleaded no contest to being an accessory after the fact. She said, “A completely innocent man was killed and his family has been destroyed. It’s heartbreaking.”

Torres’ sister, Maria Torres, said after Allen was sentenced that the four suspects “took a life away and they took a part of each of us.” She said one of her sisters “got depressed real bad” and died after their brother was killed and their mother also has been destroyed and has been in the hospital most of the time since the crime. Backers said Antonio Torres’ domestic partner was distraught after Torres was killed and “died of a broken heart” last year. Allen said in a prepared statement that he read in court today that, “I really apologize for my actions. I think about it every day and wish I could take it back.”

He told Torres’ family, “I hope that one day you can forgive me and I take responsibility for my actions. I’m sorry and I’m very remorseful.” Allen’s attorney, David Bryden, said after the hearing that Allen “feels remorse and it was important to him that he apologized to the family.” But Maria Torres said she thinks Allen’s remarks “weren’t genuine” because he read from a prepared statement and she doesn’t think he spoke from his heart.

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