OAKLAND (CBS SF) -- A 19-year-old Fremont man was sentenced Friday to 16 years to life in state prison for fatally stabbing 18-year-old Newark Memorial High School football star Osana Futi in April 2012 in what a prosecutor alleged was a gang-related incident.
Abraham Hade was convicted on March 28 of second-degree murder for stabbing Futi near Yellowstone Park and Hyde Park drives in Fremont shortly after 11 p.m. on April 28, 2012. Futi, who was born in Samoa and moved to Newark seven years ago, died several hours later.
Prosecutor Elgin Lowe alleged during Hade's trial that Hade was a leader of a branch of the Norteno gang called Fremont Mexican Territory.
Lowe said Hade killed Futi because Futi had quarreled with the gang's members because he believed they were responsible for the fatal stabbing of his close friend and football teammate, 17-year-old Justice Afoa, near the intersection of Cedar Boulevard and Birch Street in Newark at about 3:30 p.m. on Dec. 15, 2010.
That crime was still unsolved when Futi was fatally stabbed 13 months ago.
Last December, three reputed gang members were charged with murder in connection with Afoa's death, and a fourth suspect was charged with assaulting Afoa and a friend in an earlier incident.
Newark police said Afoa was killed in an act of revenge because he had beaten up a 30-year-old Norteno gang member and the gang member felt embarrassed about it because he was much older than Afoa.
Defense lawyer Tom Knutsen told jurors in his closing argument in Hade's trial in March that Hade is "an innocent man" and alleged that Futi was actually killed by a friend of Hade's who was only 14 at the time of the murder and at one point confessed to Fremont police that he was the one who stabbed Futi.
Knutsen claimed that Hade was wrongfully accused because of what he alleged was a "rush to judgment" by Fremont police and prosecutors to pin Futi's death on Hade.
However, Lowe said he believes that the teenage boy was only trying to take the rap for Futi's murder because he is a juvenile who would face a lesser sentence in juvenile court than Hade faces in adult court.
Lowe said that in the gang culture, it is expected that juveniles will take the blame for crimes because the consequences they face are less severe than those faced by adults.
Lowe said the boy's confession isn't believable because he was wrong about the area on Futi's body where he was stabbed and wrong about the location where the stabbing occurred.
The prosecutor also noted that the younger teen recanted his confession shortly after he gave it and then told investigators that Hade was the killer.
However, Knutsen said Hade doesn't belong to a gang, although he admitted that Hade may know some gang members.
Jurors found Hade not guilty of an allegation that he killed Futi to benefit a criminal street gang.
Lowe said in his closing argument that he believes Hade is guilty of murder because his blood was found on the knife that was used to kill Futi, the victim's blood was found on Hade's pants and footprints matching Hade's size 11-and-a-half Air Jordan shoes were found at the scene.
Lowe said he believes Hade killed Futi by blindsiding him with a knife while Futi was looking down at another suspected gang member with whom he had been fighting.
Knutsen alleged that Futi had a history of "viciously and violently" attacking people he believed were Norteno members after Afoa was killed and beat up several people shortly before he was killed.
School officials said Futi was named the Mission Valley Athletic League's defensive player of the year in 2011 and planned to play football at a community college after his graduation last spring.
A friend of Futi who asked that their name not be disclosed said in a statement read aloud by Lowe in court Friday that, "Although Osana Futi wasn't perfect, he was a good kid who was on his way to college and would have had a bright future."
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