Wracked with sobs, a San Mateo man convicted of bludgeoning a suspected human smuggler to death pleaded for forgiveness before being sentenced to 16 years to life in prison Thursday.
"I feel so sorry this happened," said Cesar Augusto King, 28, weeping as he looked at the victim’s widow. "I’m a human. I have three daughters too."
San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Craig Parsons sentenced King to 15 years for second-degree murder and an additional year for the use of a deadly weapon. He will be deported to his native Guatemala after his release, Deputy District Attorney Joseph Cannon said.
A jury convicted King on Oct. 18 after a 13-day trial. He was arrested June 30, 2004, after fatally striking Samuel Vasquez with a 2-inch-by-6-inch block of wood. Vasquez, a cousin of one of King’s roommates, had been drinking all day with King, prosecutors said, before a brawl broke out over who made more money. Beaten bloody by Vasquez, King fled his own apartment, but returned home several hours later to retrieve his cell phone, prosecutor said.
During the emotional trial, King claimed he struck Vasquez in self-defense. He said when he returned home, Vasquez charged at him. King said he picked up the wood to fend off the attack and accidentally killed Vasquez in the process. He also claimed that Vasquez was a dangerous human smuggler intent on killing him.
According to Cannon, King snuck back into his apartment through a window and bludgeoned Vasquez as the 25-year-old lay unconscious and face down on the carpet from drinking.
King’s public defender, Patrick Concannon, argued unsuccessfully for Parsons to sentence his client to serve both the murder sentence and the assault with a deadly weapon sentence together, which would have knocked a year off his overall time in prison. The attorney said King, who had no history of violence before his arrest, has been a positive influence on other inmates in county jail.
Both King’s wife and Vasquez’s widow attended the sentencing but neither spoke. King’s wife wept as his sentence was read.
Cannon said Vasquez left behind two children, now 3 and 5.