A 19-year-old Oakland man was sentenced Monday to nine years in state prison for shooting to death a Berkeley man who was hosting a party for his three children and their friends in March.
Antonio Harris, who originally was charged with murder and attempted murder and faced a possible sentence of life in prison, pleaded guilty on Oct. 23 to the lesser charges of voluntary manslaughter and assault with a firearm for the March 25 death of 36-year-old Aderian Gaines at his home in the 1500 block of Prince Street.
Nathaniel Daniel, a friend of Gaines, was wounded in the incident.
Prosecutors said they thought it would be difficult to convict Harris of murder and attempted murder because witnesses’ statements varied widely and the party was crowded and dimly lit.
Co-defendant James Freeman, 29, was sentenced last week to two years in state prison for his role in the incident.
Freeman, who has previous convictions for armed robbery and assault with a firearm, pleaded guilty on Oct. 23 to being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm.
After the guilty pleas by Freeman and Harris last month, Alameda County Deputy District Attorney Greg Dolge said he allowed Harris to plead guilty to lesser charges 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 Gaines, were hosting a party for their three children and their friends. They charged $2 for 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.
“The unanswerables were significant enough to make me less confident that we could prove the murder and attempted murder charges beyond a reasonable doubt,” Dolge said.