A computer analyst's 15-year-old son, who shot to death a junior high school classmate for wearing a jersey bearing the name of a rival gang, has been sentenced in Los Angeles County's Eastlake Juvenile Court to 17 years to life in prison.
Because he is a minor, however, the youth must be freed at the age of 25 if he is not paroled before then, attorneys involved in the case said. The convicted youth confessed to shooting Mark Iwashita, 14, at point-blank range on Aug. 8, one day after Iwashita wore an "Atwater-13" jersey to Washington Irving Junior High School in Glassell Park.
The convicted youth told investigators that he shot Iwashita "so that other kids won't join Atwater," Deputy Dist. Atty. Barry Bradley said during the sentencing last Friday. The youth's name is being withheld because of his age.
The youth's father, his mother and older brother, who is currently attending college, were present at the sentencing.
"You are fortunate that your parents are more stable than most families that come to this court," Judge Jaime Corral told the youth while delivering his sentence. "Because of your age and the support of your family, there is hope for you," Corral said.
Defense attorney Tom Fogelman had asked Corral to send the youth to a Los Angeles County juvenile facility commonly known as "camp," where offenders typically spend less than three years before being released.
Fogelman argued that the confessed killer had been a model student and family member until joining a gang a year ago. He said the youth was also a victim.
"Suddenly the tattoos, suddenly he loses control of his life," Fogelman said. "It happened so fast the family didn't see what was going on. They were naive."
But, Fogelman said: "I think he's got potential. I hope he gets out."
Bradley, on the other hand, asked that the youth be sent to the California Youth Authority, the state agency in charge of dealing with youths who commit serious crimes.
Bradley said the shooting of Iwashita--who was lured under a railroad bridge, where he was executed, about five blocks from the school campus--deserved a sentence of death.
"If he were an adult, I'd ask for special circumstances," Bradley told the court. Death penalties for convicted murderers are based on evidence of "special circumstances" that make the crime especially abhorrent to society.
Corral followed Bradley's recommendation for a stern sentence and sent the youth to the California Youth Authority.
"You are going to the CYA and you are going to stay there a long time," Corral told the youth, who remained quiet throughout the hearing and never turned his head to look at his family.
"I hope you realize," Corral continued, "what you have done, not only to the victim's family, but to your own family as well.