Judge John W. Kennedy said in a Martinez courtroom today that Marcel Buggs, 20, showed a "lack of concern for the lives of human beings" when he fired several rounds inside the New Gethsemane Church of God in Christ in Richmond -- "the last place on earth where people expect to be murdered".
On Feb. 14, 2010, Buggs, then 18, entered the church at 2100 Roosevelt Ave. armed with a handgun and a premeditated plan to shoot a rival gang member who was there.
But Buggs, who was with two other teens, ended up shooting the man's two younger brothers, a 19-year-old and 14-year-old, Deputy District Attorney Aron Deferrari said.
In July, a jury convicted Buggs of three counts of attempted murder, one count of burglary and one count of being a member of a criminal street gang. He was also found guilty of enhancements for using a gun, for inflicting great bodily injury and for being a gang member.
Three people who witnessed the shooting identified Buggs as the shooter, Deferrari said.
During the trial, the defense argued that Buggs was not a gang member and had been misidentified because of a YouTube video in which he wielded a gun and talked about hurting North Richmond residents.
Defense attorney Diana Garrido told the judge today that imposing a life sentence on Buggs would be "cruel and unusual punishment."
She also sent the court a letter describing her clients' difficult upbringing living with an abusive father in a tough Richmond neighborhood where violence was the norm.
In the letter, Garrido writes that at 17, Buggs was diagnosed as bipolar and that he experienced hallucinations and was paranoid that "people were out to get him."
This morning, Buggs' mother, sister and the mother of his 2-year-old daughter addressed the judge and requested a lenient sentence.
All said that Buggs was an intelligent, creative young man whose family, including two young daughters, love him and are waiting for his return home.
"I'm begging you for leniency for my son, because he is savable ... he just needs someone to help him, because I didn't know how," Buggs' mother Stacey Porter told the judge this morning while weeping.
The defendant, wearing a yellow jumpsuit, dabbed his eyes and nose with a tissue as his mother spoke, bowing his head down.
Kennedy said today that he balanced his ruling with information about the defendant's difficult upbringing and psychological problems.