SAN DIEGO — After an emotional plea for mercy, the youngest person ever charged with murder in California was sentenced Tuesday to 25 years to life in prison for the murder of a pizza deliveryman.
Tony Edward Hicks, 15, tearfully told the judge: "I'll be a better person. I won't mess up. I want to hold my mom as tight as I can and beg her to take me out of jail."
Hicks was 14 years and 4 months old at the time of the murder. He was the first teenager charged under a state law that lowered from 16 to 14 the age at which an accused killer can be tried as an adult.
Tariq Khamisa, 20, a college student who dreamed of becoming a photographer, was shot point-blank by Hicks with a 9-millimeter semiautomatic handgun after he refused to give up his cash or pizza.
"I still don't know why I shot Tariq," Hicks told Superior Court Judge Joan Weber. "I didn't really want to hurt him. I'm sorry."
Before being taken away, Hicks was allowed to hug his mother, who had wept during the sentencing. Hicks, who pleaded guilty, will spend 10 years in a California Youth Authority facility before being transferred to state prison.
"The thing that is incomprehensible about this case," Weber said, "is how a boy 14 years of age can have so much hate and anger inside and so little regard for human life that you took this young man's life over a lousy pizza."
Hicks will not be eligible for parole until he is 36. Under the old law, the maximum penalty would have been to send him to a youth facility until he was 25.
A probation report said Hicks was beaten by his parents, who lived in South-Central Los Angeles. His father served a stretch in prison. Hicks had moved to San Diego to live with his grandfather but ran away just weeks before the fatal shooting.
Three accomplices--two 14-year-olds tried in Juvenile Court and an 18-year-old tried in Superior Court--have been convicted. The oldest, who organized the robbery and ordered Hicks to shoot, was sentenced to life in prison without parole. Teenagers tried in Juvenile Court technically are not charged with crimes but rather asked to answer allegations.
The four had spent the night drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana before they decided to pull a robbery by luring a pizza deliveryman to a phony address.
Hicks said he has spent the last year at Juvenile Hall crying at night and thinking, "God, get me out of here." He added, "I wish I didn't have the type of life I had."
The murder occurred Jan. 21, 1995, three weeks after the law became effective. Khamisa's father, an immigrant from Kenya of Indian descent, has established a foundation to find ways to avert teenage violence. He has been joined by Hicks' grandfather.
Azim Khamisa, the slain youth's father, was too distraught to attend the sentencing, but Deputy Dist. Atty. Peter Deddeh read a statement from him saying that "his dearest, dearest wish would be for Tony to come out of his incarceration a changed man, a productive man, a young man that [he] could employ in his foundation."
Times correspondent Paul Levikow contributed to this story.