LOS GATOS (BCN) - Three men accused in the 2008 slaying of Los Gatos restaurateur Mark Achilli were found guilty of first-degree murder in Santa Clara County Superior Court Tuesday morning.
Esequiel "Paul" Garcia, Miguel Chaidez and Lucio Estrada were charged in the shooting death of Achilli, who owned the popular downtown Los Gatos nightspot Mountain Charley's saloon and the adjacent 180 Restaurant until 2007 when he sold them to Garcia.
KCBS' Matt Bigler Reports:
The verdict was read Tuesday morning in the courtroom of Judge David Cena after a nearly two-month trial. Cena set a Dec. 16 sentencing date for the men.
Garcia and Estrada both face life in prison, while Chaidez is
looking at 25 years to life in prison.
Achilli was gunned down outside his Overlook Road townhouse on the morning of March 14, 2008.
Prosecutor Jeff Rosen alleged Achilli's death was the result of a love triangle that led to a case of murder-for-hire.
Rosen said Garcia was in love with Tessa Donnelly, a woman both Achilli and Garcia had dated, and orchestrated Achilli's death because she ultimately chose him over Garcia.
The prosecutor alleged that he did that by paying Daniel Chaidez, a cousin of Miguel Chaidez and a bouncer at Mountain Charley's, $9,500 in two separate payments for the job. Miguel Chaidez then contacted Estrada in Southern California and paid him to kill Achilli, Rosen said.
Meanwhile, the defense maintained that the case was about a drug debt and that Daniel Chaidez was using Garcia as a scapegoat. Daniel Chaidez later pleaded guilty to a voluntary manslaughter charge in exchange for testifying against Miguel Chaidez.
When the verdict was read this morning, a collective gasp was heard on one side of the courtroom where Achilli's widow Michele Achilli and the couple's children sat among many relatives and friends.
Outside the courthouse, Michele Achilli, trembling and crying, hugged and kissed Rosen.
"I'm just so excited," said Achilli's daughter, Alexandra Achilli. "I'm ready to move on. I'm ready to get out of here."
A close friend of Achilli's, Chuck Cucco, said he felt relieved.
"Two and a half years of waiting," Cucco said. "Justice was done.
My blood pressure can go back to normal now."
Garcia's attorney, Harry Robertson, commended the jury for their work.
"I believe they put their heart and soul into this," Robertson said, adding, "We would have liked a different verdict. It's a devastating result for both families."
Rosen said he was pleased with the result but that it was not a happy day for the families involved.
"The verdict is just," Rosen said. "It's just a sad day because Mark Achilli is still dead."
(© 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Bay City News contributed to this report.)
for more features.