A judge on Tuesday sentenced a Vallejo man to 30 years to life in state prison for his role in the shooting death in West Oakland in 2015 of a 17-year-old boy who Oakland City Councilwoman Lynette Gibson McElhaney considered to be her grandson.
Shiheim Johnson, who turned 23 on Tuesday but was only 19 at the time, could have faced more than 80 years in state prison for his first-degree murder conviction for the fatal shooting of Torian Hughes in the 900 block of Mandela Parkway at about 1:40 p.m. on Dec. 20.
But Alameda County Superior Court Judge Rhonda Burgess struck Johnson’s convictions for two counts of unlawful gun use and his prior robbery conviction for sentencing purposes, which significantly reduced his prison term.
Burgess said she struck those factors because a psychologist hired by the defense submitted a report indicating that Johnson functions at a low intellectual level, as he scored in the bottom 1 percent on an intellectual test, and suffers from significant cognitive impairment, incomplete brain development and a learning disability.
Burgess also said Johnson’s family was significantly dysfunctional, as he had limited and inadequate parental supervision and his parents, especially his father, were incarcerated for lengthy periods. In addition, Burgess said that before Johnson was arrested, he was addicted to cannabis and opiates, as he began using cannabis on a daily basis at the age of 12 and started using opiates regularly at the age of 15. Burgess said the term of 30 years to life that she’s imposing is still “serious and is commensurate with the crime he (Johnson) has committed.”
The judge said imposing more time “would result in a sentence that is unjust” because Johnson wasn’t the person who fatally shot Hughes, as the teen who allegedly shot Hughes is being prosecuted separately in the juvenile court system.
Although Johnson didn’t pull the trigger, jurors convicted him of first-degree murder because they found that he was a major participant in the shooting and acted with reckless indifference to human life. Prosecutor Tim Wagstaffe told jurors during Johnson’s trial that Johnson and the alleged shooter, who was 15 at the time, had “a harebrained idea to commit an armed robbery” but it went wrong and led to the fatal shooting of Hughes.
Wagstaffe said Hughes wanted to buy a gun from the 15-year-old and Johnson because he had recently been assaulted on BART and felt that he needed to protect himself.
Wagstaffe alleged that Johnson pointed a gun at the head of Hughes’ cousin, who was with Hughes, took a cellphone and cash from him and then directed the 15-year-old boy to shoot Hughes.
McElhaney, who helped raise Hughes and considered him to be her grandson, attended most of Johnson’s trial but missed its conclusion because she had to go to Los Angeles to deal with another tragedy, the fatal shooting of her 21-year-old son Victor McElhaney in Los Angeles on March 10. Victor McElhaney was a drummer and was a senior at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music and was shot in an apparent botched robbery at a convenience store about a mile from the university campus.
Lynette Gibson McElhaney didn’t attend Johnson’s sentencing Tuesday but Hughes’ mother Audrey Candy Corn did.
After the hearing, Candy Corn embraced Johnson’s mother in the hallway outside Burgess’ courtroom, saying:
“We stand together in solidarity.”
Johnson’s mother, who declined to give her name, said, “Shiheim is deeply apologetic for what happened and wishes he could turn back the hands of time” so that the shooting wouldn’t have occurred.