A Contra Costa County man will spend the next six years in prison for his role in the shooting death of a 22-year-old man in unincorporated Rodeo in 2011. Mikaele Lui Taito, 36, received the sentence in a Martinez courtroom this morning in exchange for a guilty plea to voluntary manslaughter charges. Taito and his co-defendant, Anthony Wiley, shot and killed James Newman Jr. on May 30, 2011, at the Bayo Vista apartment complex in unincorporated Rodeo, Contra Costa County Deputy District Attorney Jason Peck said. The prosecutor said Taito masterminded the shooting, which was sparked by a fistfight between his 17-year-old nephew and his friends and another group including Newman.
During a recent trial that resulted in a hung jury, Taito testified that he had tried to act as a peacemaker after the fight and urged the teen not to retaliate against Newman and his friends. But Peck said when the nephew called Taito and Wiley to tell them about the fight, Taito helped organize the youngsters, who gathered multiple guns, including a machine gun, and waited for Newmanand his friends to drive by them in the 1100 block of Tullibee Court. When the victim and his friends drove by in a van, Taito was also waiting, and shot at the van along with Wiley, the prosecutor said. The gunfire struck Newman in the femoral artery, causing him to bleed out and die at the scene, Peck said. Newman’s three friends who were also riding in the van were uninjured. Both Taito and Wiley were arrested on suspicion of murder, but a jury could not reach a verdict in the recent trial against Taito. Wiley is still awaiting trial.
Today, Peck read a letter from Newman’s aunt, who reminded the defendant of the pain and suffering his actions have caused the victim’s family. “James was only 22 years old when he died and he had a full life ahead of him,” the letter read. In the letter, she said Newman’s grandmother, who raised the victim and was present in court today, was paying “the ultimate price” for Taito’s actions. “He has given her a life sentence of pain,” she said.
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