Two Oakland men have pleaded guilty in connection with the March slaying of a Berkeley man who was hosting a party for his three children and their friends.
Antonio Harris, 19, had been charged with murder and attempted murder in the killing of Aderian Gaines, 36, and the wounding of Nathaniel Dudley in the March 25 incident at Gaines’ Prince Street home, but he was allowed to plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter and assault with a firearm.
James Freeman, 29, pleaded guilty to being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm, the charge that he faced all along.
Harris and Freeman entered their pleas in Alameda County Superior Court on Monday.
Deputy District Attorney Greg Dolge said he allowed Harris to plead guilty to a lesser charge because “after a thorough review of the case and talking to witnesses, there were some significant questions that we’ll never get an answer to.”
Gaines and his wife, Afeni, were hosting a party for their three children and their friends. They charged $2 admission and searched guests for weapons. The party was the fourth they had hosted in an effort to give their children something to do on a weekend night, according to Berkeley police.
Dolge said Gaines disarmed Harris and kicked him out of his house after discovering that Harris had a gun. But he said Harris was able to get his gun back and return to the party.
Dolge said the prosecution’s case was complicated by the fact that Gaines had a rifle with a fixed bayonet in his house that was prominently displayed and was in the possession of three different adult chaperones, including Gaines, at various times during the party.
He said, “There was an odd confluence of circumstances, the party was crowded and dimly lit, and witness accounts varied widely.”
Dolge said, “The unanswerables were significant enough to make me less confident that we could prove the murder and attempted murder charges beyond a reasonable doubt.”
The prosecutor said he talked to Gaines’ family members about the pleas but declined to comment on their reaction, stating that he would leave it up to them to comment on their own.
Harris, who originally faced a possible sentence of life in prison, is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 27 and will get a nine-year state prison sentence as part of his negotiated plea.
Freeman is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 21 and will get two years, according to Dolge.