Sentencing was set for Jan. 25 for the gunman, Rashon Jay Abernathy, 18, the driver, Shaquille Jordan, 19, and Seandell Jones, 19, who also held a gun during the May 11, 2011, robbery of Berki, 18, of Mission Beach.
Because the jury found that Abernathy personally used the gun during a homicide, he faces 25 years on the gun count plus 25 years to life in prison for the murder. Jones and Jordan face terms of 25 years to life.
“I’m happy that justice was done for my son,” said Edward Berki after the verdict was returned. “That’s about it. He was a great kid.”
Jurors determined that all three defendants were not gang members and did not commit the crime to benefit a criminal street gang — an allegation that, if found to be true, would have meant higher sentences.
Berki, a 2010 graduate of La Jolla High School, and his girlfriend, Alejandra Foudoa, drove to an address on Casey Street in Paradise Hills in answer to an ad for a computer for $600. Shortly after meeting with the trio, both Berki and Foudoa were robbed of more than $600 in cash and their cellphones.
The trio drove away with the money, but Berki was able to follow them into a cul-de-sac. When the trio saw Berki had followed them, Abernathy pointed a gun out the backseat window and fired one shot toward Berki.
Jurors also found the trio guilty of robbing both Berki and Foudoa, auto theft and shooting into an occupied vehicle. Abernathy was also convicted of robbing a Pacific Beach man of $600 in cash a week before when that man answered a similar Craigslist ad for a computer.
“I think it’s a tragedy for everyone concerned,” said Kathleen Coyne, Abernathy’s lawyer afterward. “It’s one of the best arguments for gun control that I have ever seen.
“My heart aches for the Berki family. My heart aches for the family of Rashon Abernathy,” she said.
Jordan’s attorney, Zaki Zehawi, said they were “disappointed in the verdict to a certain extent,” and that they planned to appeal.
Coyne had asked for a guilty verdict for involuntary manslaughter, arguing that Abernathy accidentally shot the victim when the driver of the stolen car in which he was a back seat passenger suddenly hit the brakes.
“This is a tragedy, but it is not a premeditated act,” she argued.
Attorneys for Jordan and Jones urged the jury to acquit the two men of murder and only convict them of two robberies. Under the felony-murder rule, conspirators in a felony — like a robbery — that results in a murder are guilty of first-degree murder, even if they didn’t commit the murder themselves. Both attorneys said the robbery of Berki had concluded minutes earlier, and that the shooting happened after the initial felony.
Abernathy, who lived in Paradise Hills, just blocks away from the shooting, testified that the shooting was accidental. Abernathy said Berki was swerving back and forth with his car as he was following them.
“I didn’t know what Garrett was trying to do,” said Abernathy. “I was scared. That basically covered what I was thinking at the time.”
Jordan was driving a stolen Honda that had a child safety feature that only allowed the rear passenger window to go up half way. Abernathy said he grabbed the gun “to scare him off” and “put it out the window,” but couldn’t hold it well.
“I pointed it, but didn’t aim it specifically at Garrett’s car, to scare him so he could see the gun and stop following us,” said Abernathy.
“The car stopped, it jerked me and I shot the gun,” said Abernathy, who said he was surprised the gun fired. “I didn’t intentionally shoot Garrett. I was just trying to scare him.”
The bullet went through the windshield, hitting the rear view mirror and struck Berki in the shoulder. It traveled to his lungs and he died when major arteries were severed.
The trio were all 17 years old at the time, but were ordered to stand trial as adults. They remain in jail without bail.