SANTA ROSA (CBS SF) — A Lake County man was sentenced in Sonoma County Superior Court Wednesday to four years in prison for the involuntary manslaughter of a Santa Rosa man during a confrontation outside the Graton Resort & Casino in 2017.
The grieving family of the 55-year-old victim, Dondiego Hermilo “Milo” Andrade, told Judge Chris Honigsberg the defendant, James Morgan Lewis Jr., 45, attacked and killed Andrade “over a car door ding” in a parking lot at the casino on Sept. 15, 2017. Andrade was hospitalized but died three days later.
In a news release after the incident, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office said Lewis got in an argument with several men in a SUV after the SUV’s door banged his truck door around 11:30 p.m.
Lewis’ girlfriend was pushed to the ground and Lewis was punched in the face by the men, but neither one requested prosecution for the assault because they weren’t sure who assaulted them, according to the sheriff’s office.
Deputies left the scene but returned to the casino 10 minutes later when a confrontation involving the same people ensued. Lewis approached Andrade, who he believed was the assailant, and shoved him backwards. Andrade fell and struck his head on the concrete, according to the sheriff’s office.
Lewis was arrested for assault causing great bodily injury, posted bail and was released from Sonoma County Jail. He turned himself in to the sheriff’s office after Andrade died and was charged with involuntary manslaughter.
He pleaded guilty on July 9 with the stipulation he would be sentenced to four years in prison. Lewis’ attorney Steven Gallenson said Lewis will actually serve two years of his sentence with credit for good behavior. Charges of assault and battery causing serious bodily injury were dismissed.
Andrade’s relatives who packed the courtroom described Andrade as a devoted father and a loving family member who served as an usher at his church. They said his death was devastating to Andrade’s wife Maria, who is ill.
The family spoke harsh words to Lewis, who broke down and cried at the sentencing. Andrade’s family said Lewis was the aggressor in the confrontation and called upon his brother to be his backup in the fight and took his rage out on Andrade.
Andrade’s daughter Rose said her father suffered a lethal brain injury.
Andrade’s brother-in-law John Gurrola said Lewis didn’t merely push Andrade, but he “ran full speed like a linebacker” and attacked him.
“He blindsided and attacked an innocent man who could not defend himself,” Gurrola said.
Gurrola also said the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office reneged its promise to take the case to trial on all charges instead of negotiating a plea bargain.
Deputy District Attorney Robert Waner told the court the case was “vetted at the highest level of our office” and the sheriff’s office.
“Mr. Lewis behaved badly and impulsively killed Milo and deeply impacted his own family,” Waner said.
“There’s a lot we don’t know about the earlier incident, but we know Milo was a remarkable man,” Waner said.
The District Attorney’s Office is aware of the strong opposition to the plea agreement, but the prosecution has to consider all possible defenses and try to determine what happened, Waner said.
“And in the final analysis, Mr. Lewis’ actions are involuntary manslaughter,” Waner said.
Gallenson, Lewis’ attorney, told the judge Lewis expressed remorse immediately afterward.
“He knows he made a huge error in judgment that night. We think this sentence is a fair and just result,” Gallenson said.
Lewis is a good, big-hearted man, a father and a volunteer in the Hidden Valley Lake community, Gallenson said.
After the sentencing, a member of Lewis’ family said, “It’s a very sad thing and we’re very sorry for their loss.”
“If everyone was like Milo, this world would be a better place,” Honigsberg, the judge, said.
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