OAKLAND (CBS SF) – An unrepentant Oakland man who claims that he is innocent was sentenced Monday to life in prison for murdering a Virginia man who had come to the Bay Area for a job interview at Google three years ago.
George Huggins, 26, was convicted on March 20 of first-degree murder and the special circumstance of committing a murder during a robbery for the fatal shooting of 45-year-old Jinghong Kang, who was fatally shot in the 1900 block of Webster Street in downtown Oakland at about 11:30 p.m. on July 18, 2010.
In addition, Huggins was convicted of attempted second-degree robbery for trying to rob Hai Huang, a dental assistant who had just cleaned Kang’s teeth at her office on Webster Street that night.
He was also convicted of two counts of second-degree robbery for taking items from a man and woman, both 26 at the time, as they were sitting in a parked car in the 1700 block of Telegraph Avenue early the morning of June 21, 2010, several weeks before Kang was killed.
Huggins also was convicted of using a gun to shoot and injure the man in the earlier incident.
Just before he was sentenced by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Jon Rolefson today, Huggins said he’s completely innocent and he is upset that prosecutor Tim Wellman called him “a monster” during his trial.
Huggins’ lawyer, Annie Beles, bitterly complained that Huggins was “the victim of a terrible prosecution” that included “the most despicable type of evidence,” such as presenting testimony from a citizen witness who identified Huggins as the culprit and a jailhouse informant who said Huggins admitted carrying out the crimes.
But Rolefson said he feels “quite comfortable” sentencing Huggins to life in prison because he agrees that the jury’s verdict against him after only one day of deliberations was appropriate.
Wellman told jurors during the trial that Huggins and his former girlfriend, Althea Housley, 36, also of Oakland, targeted Kang and his friend Huang as they stood next to Kang’s rental car because they “were vulnerable and were easy targets.”
Wellman said Kang had flown to the Bay Area because he had a job interview at Google the next day and he had driven his rental car to downtown Oakland to have his teeth cleaned by Huang, a dental hygienist whom Kang had met at a church conference.
He said Huggins and Housley worked together as a team, with Huggins approaching male victims and Housley approaching female victims, and that was what they did when they walked up to Kang and Huang.
Wellman said Housley grabbed Huang by her hair and threw her to the ground and Huggins pointed a gun at Kang and demanded that he turn over his money.
Kang told Huggins all he had was $17, and he gave Huggins that amount but Huggins still fired three shots at him, striking Kang in his leg and his chest and killing him, Wellman said.
Housley and Huggins then fled, according to the prosecutor.
Oakland police obtained video footage of the suspects captured by surveillance cameras at nearby businesses and they were later arrested, Wellman said.
Housley initially told police that she wasn’t involved but later admitted she was present. However, she said that Huggins was the person who shot Kang and claimed she didn’t know anyone would be shot, he said.
Wellman said police ballistics experts determined that the same .22-caliber handgun was used to shoot both Kang and the male victim in the earlier robbery.
Housley had faced a murder charge for allegedly being an accomplice in Kang’s shooting, but on Feb. 20 she pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter and attempted robbery for that incident and to two counts of attempted robbery for the incident on Telegraph Avenue.
She testified against Huggins during his trial, identifying him as the man who shot Kang and the other male victim.
Instead of potentially facing a sentence of up to life in prison, Housley was sentenced in May to 15 years and eight months in state prison.
Beles told jurors that Huggins is innocent of murder and the robbery charges and alleged that the person shown on video with Housley was not Huggins.
Beles, who didn’t present any defense witnesses, said Housley and a jailhouse informant both had motives to lie because they were rewarded by prosecutors for their testimony. The informant testified that Huggins admitted to him that he shot two people during robberies in Oakland, killing one.
Kang’s widow, Wendy Wang, said in a statement read in court Monday by Wellman that Kang’s potential new job with Google represented a chance for a “better life” but “this dream became a nightmare” when the father of three was murdered.
Wang said, “The loss of my husband has devastated my entire family and the community. I lost my very best friend, the three boys lost the father and the elderly mom lost her lovely son.”
Wang said she had planned to attend Huggins’ sentencing but she recently found out that she has breast cancer, which she thinks she developed because of the stress of her husband’s death and having to support her family by herself.
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