An Oakland man has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for fatally shooting a gardener in Oakland’s Fruitvale District in May 2011 during a brazen daytime robbery. Jonathan Laverne Johnson, who was 17 at the time of the incident but is now 20, entered his plea last Wednesday shortly before jury selection was to begin in a trial in which he could have faced a first-degree murder conviction. Johnson also pleaded guilty to using a firearm to kill 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.
He faces 19 years to life in state prison when Alameda County Superior Court Judge Vernon Nakahara sentences him on May 21. Prosecutors said Johnson and three other defendants who also were teens at the time targeted Torres because they wanted to steal his gold necklace and his iPod. James Lee Allen, now 19, was sentenced in adult court last year to 12 years in state prison for his voluntary manslaughter for his role in the robbery and shooting. Prosecutors said Allen robbed Torres.
One of the other defendants in the case pleaded no contest to first-degree murder and armed robbery in juvenile court and another pleaded no contest in adult court to being an accessory after the fact, according to authorities. When Johnson and the other three defendants were arrested in September 2011, former Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan said people wearing gold necklaces and chains were the targets of numerous crimes at that time because the price of gold had soared and stealing gold had become “a lucrative business.”
Johnson’s attorney, Mark McGoldrick, declined to comment on the case today. Torres’ sister, Maria Torres, said after Allen was sentenced last year that Johnson and the other three defendants “took a life away and they took a part of each of us.” She said one of her sisters became depressed and died after their brother was killed and their mother also was devastated and had been hospitalized much of the time since the crime.
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