CNJ staff photo: Sharna Johnson John Cameron sits at the defense table with his attorneys Brett Carter, left, and Chandler Blair during a Monday sentencing hearing. Cameron pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and will serve at least 85 percent of an eight and a half year sentence.
By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer
Family members said Monday they couldn’t talk John Cameron out of his decision to take a plea agreement for what they call a self-defense shooting.
District Judge Stephen Quinn on Monday ordered Cameron, 26, to serve eight years, six months in prison for the Oct. 16, 2006, shooting death of 19-year-old Amos Soliz.
Cameron shot Soliz during a confrontation with the victim, who lived next door to Cameron’s parents, and his friend. Cameron’s mother and stepfather told investigators Soliz’ friend, Arthur Gutierrez, was harassing them, records show.
“I don’t think he should have pled guilty, but I understand,” said Fred Anderson, Cameron’s uncle, after the sentencing hearing.
Anderson said he and other family members tried to convince Cameron to take a chance with a jury, believing he could prove he acted in self-defense.
He called the sentence an injustice.
Cameron agreed Friday to plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter and tampering with evidence just days before his trial was to start. He was charged with second-degree murder and three counts of tampering with evidence. If convicted by a jury, he would have faced more than 20 years imprisonment.
Family members described the victim as a kindhearted young man who would help anyone in need and loved animals.
If he had survived the shooting, Sophia Soliz told the court she believes her older brother would have forgiven Cameron.
“Amos was a good kid who was becoming a man I was proud of,” she said.
Prosecutor Donna Mowrer described in court Monday a confrontation in which Gutierrez hit an unarmed Cameron in the head with a gun and it fell on the ground.
“(All three) rushed for that gun, however it was the defendant that got that gun,” she said.
Cameron fired three shots toward Soliz, hitting him twice, court records show.
Gutierrez is not charged in connection with the shooting incident.
Gutierrez pleaded guilty in January to extortion related to an altercation with Cameron’s mother and stepfather two days before the shooting. He was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment.
Defense attorney Brett Carter told the judge if the case had gone to trial, his client had a good self-defense case with a strong chance of an acquittal.
“(Cameron) just believes the odds are stacked against him and decided to take the plea,” Carter said.
He said witnesses would have testified Gutierrez harassed several residents of the neighborhood and even the victim feared Gutierrez, but was too afraid to sever ties to him.
Holding Cameron’s 1-year-old son in her arms, Keisha Evan left the courtroom frustrated and angry because guards refused to let her say goodbye to her boyfriend before he was escorted back to the jail.
Soliz’ mother, Carmen Carbajal, told the judge her son was a loving person.
“Amos was the baby of the family but he was real responsible. He worked really hard for a living,” she said. “I don’t know what caused John to shoot my baby … It’s just unreal.”
Norma Carbajal said her younger brother was her best friend and a good uncle to her children.
“He brightened up our lives,” she said. “He wore his heart on his sleeve — now we have to go on with life not being able to see him.”