A Menlo Park man who was part of the 2014 "Sunny Day" gang arrests in San Mateo County was convicted of murder and special circumstances charges on Thursday for a gang-related shooting that killed an East Palo Alto man in 2012.
Jerry Coneal III, 22, was found guilty of the October 2012 slaying of rival gang member Christopher Baker in East Palo Alto. A San Mateo County Superior Court jury convicted him of first-degree murder with two special circumstances: lying in wait and murder for gang purposes; and additional use of a firearm and gang enhancements, which would add to his sentence. The murder and special circumstances charges carry a life-without-parole sentence, according to the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office.
Coneal's use of a firearm with deadly force adds a sentence of 25 years to life, Sean Gallagher, a deputy district attorney who supervises cases that involve homicide and gangs, said.
Baker was killed in what the District Attorney's Office termed a gang-retaliation attack while he was attending a memorial for someone prosecutors believed was associated with gangs on Oct. 5 at 8:20 p.m. in the 2200 block of Terra Villa Avenue in East Palo Alto. Police found him suffering from multiple gunshot wounds. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
The jury conviction came after 26 days of trial and three days of deliberations. Coneal is scheduled for sentencing on Sept. 20. He remains in custody without bail.
In an email, Peter Arian, Coneal's defense attorney, said he had no comment on the case.
San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said he and prosecutors are grateful to the jury for the conviction.
Coneal now faces another trial on a murder charge of a shopkeeper who was an innocent victim in Santa Clara County, Wagstaffe said.
Co-defendent Miguel Angel Rivera Jr., 23, of Menlo Park pleaded no contest to second-degree murder in Baker's killing on July 10. He received a 35-year sentence on July 28 for his part in the crime. He is also serving an additional 14-year, four-month sentence for being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. The two sentences are to be served consecutively.
In March 2014, San Mateo County officials indicted and arrested 16 people purportedly involved in East Palo Alto gangs for a rampage of murders and other crimes. Of those defendants, all but three have been convicted and are serving sentences of varying lengths, many of which are decades long, he said.
Three defendants are still awaiting trials: Tyrone Love-Lopez is charged with the killing of 21-year-old Lamont Coleman in East Palo Alto on Jan. 26, 2013. He faces trial in October; Marvin Ware is being tried for a shooting in Belmont, which took place on U.S. Highway 101; and Nina Cragg is being tried int the Coleman killing. Ware and Cragg have trials set for January 2018, Wagstaffe said.
Several state, local, county and federal law-enforcement agencies worked with the district attorney's Bureau of Investigations, including Mountain View, Belmont, East Palo Alto and Milpitas police, the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office, the federal Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Marshals Office and the U.S. Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Some of those defendants have received decades-long prison sentences and others are still awaiting trials.
Dave Boyce is a staff writer with the Weekly's sister paper The Almanac.