The getaway driver and another passenger were also sentenced to 25 years to life for their roles in the slaying of the La Jolla High School graduate. All were convicted of first-degree murder and robbery on Nov. 15.
The trio’s sentencing by San Diego Superior Court Judge Kerry Wells took about five hours in a packed courtroom filled with Berki’s parents, sister, friends and the mothers and family members of the defendants. One young woman was ejected for angrily muttering out loud.
Gunman Rashon Jay Abernathy, 19, said nothing before Wells imposed 25 years for murder, plus 25 years consecutively for using a gun in a homicide. Prosecutor Kristian Trocha asked for 65 years.
The driver, Shaquille Jordan, 19, and passenger Seandell Lee Jones, 19, who Trocha said initially held a gun to Berki and his girlfriend in the May 11, 2011 robbery, both expressed condolences to Berki’s parents.
“His life was worth $600. $600,” said Connie Berki, noting her son and his girlfriend were robbed of $600 after they answered a Craigslist ad to buy a computer during a Paradise Hills rendezvous with the convicted trio.
“Our lives are completely shattered and will never be the same,” said Connie Berki. “What they took from me — there’s no amount of money that could [replace] him.”
Berki’s sister, Monica, agreed.
“Losing my brother changed my life in so many different ways,” she said. “It’s a constant reminder of pain on a daily, hourly, and by minutes that remain.”
Berki’s girlfriend, Alejandra Faudoa, similary shared her own pain.
“Garrett was my first boyfriend, my first love,” said Faudoa, now 20. She told the judge she often blamed herself for the tragedy.
Faudoa said she wished she had urged Berki to slow down and to not pursue the robbers. She was sitting next to Berki when he was shot in a cul-de-sac after he chased after the robbers to try and get a license plate number.
“This was not your fault,” the judge told Faudoa.
Each defendant was fined $10,000 and ordered to pay $5,800 in funeral costs to Berki’s parents and $600 to a Navy man who testified he was robbed one week earlier in a similar Craiglist computer-sale scam.
The 17-years-olds were ordered to stand trial as adults after their arrest. Wells turned down a lengthy motion for a new trial, in which attorneys argued there were errors over jury instructions.
Jurors deliberated nearly 15 hours over three days and the trio was convicted as part of the felony murder rule, which makes a slaying first-degree-murder if a victim is robbed.
“This case is exactly the type of case that the felony murder rule deters,” said Wells.
Abernathy will likely have to serve a full 50-year sentence, which means he likely won’t be eligible for parole until he turns 69 years old.
Attorney Will Rumble, who represented Jones, said his client and Jordan will have to serve a full 25 years before becoming eligible for parole. He unsuccessfully urged the judge to lower the verdict to manslaughter after saying a 25-year sentence was “cruel and unusual punishment.”
Jordan said he should be sentenced “for what I did, not what I didn’t do.”
Afterward, Connie Berki said she felt relieved the sentencing phase was over, but told reporters “I’m a different person than before I lost my son. I don’t think a parent who loses a child ever gets closure.”
“I don’t forgive,” she said.” I can’t. I just can’t. They chose what they did.”