A 21-year-old man convicted of first-degree murder for the shooting death of a Durango man was sentenced Thursday to life in prison without parole.
A 12-person jury convicted Michael Jones in August of pulling the trigger that killed David Gaytan, 34, on May 14, 2017, in the Lightner Creek Mobile Home Park, a few miles west of Durango. In addition to first-degree murder, Jones was convicted on three counts of aggravated robbery, three counts of menacing with a deadly weapon and one count of tampering with physical evidence.
Jones of Texas wore an orange jumpsuit and shackles Friday in 6th Judicial District Court. He sat beside his two public defense attorneys. His mother, Jennifer Chambers-Smith, sat on a court bench behind him.
“I know my son is not perfect,” Chambers-Smith told District Judge William Herringer. “But I know my son is not a murderer.”
The defense asked for a 30-year prison sentence rather than life, saying Jones had a tough childhood, including a father who was in federal prison. Defense attorney Justin Bogan said Jones plans to appeal his conviction.
“He’s still a very young man, and life without parole extinguishes any hope,” Bogan told Herringer.
Jones declined to speak on his behalf, in part because he plans to appeal, but he relayed a message to the judge through Bogan: “He’s not a bad dude, and he doesn’t know what to say,” Bogan told Herringer.
Prosecutors said Jones has previous gun-related charges, which demonstrates he is a dangerous individual.
“This was a violent act, it wasn’t accidental,” said Assistant District Attorney David Ottman. “It was purposeful.”
Jones is from Corsicana, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, that is rooted in its “Confederate past,” Bogan said. While in Corsicana, Jones, also known as “OG Miko,” was part of a local group that calls itself the StainGang Klan, according to a report in the Corsicana Daily Sun.
The group can be found on YouTube performing rap music videos with violent lyrics about drugs, robbery and murder.
In a statement before Herringer, Katie Trice, the mother of Gaytan’s daughter, said giving Jones another chance at life outside a penitentiary would be “an injustice.”
“I feel he (Jones) deserves the full sentence, and he doesn’t deserve to have a life like the rest of us,” Trice said.
Two co-defendants were charged in connection with the shooting death, including Kevin Goff, 27, who pleaded guilty Sept. 27 to aggravated robbery and is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 13; and Alysse Rios, 20, who was sentenced Oct. 5 to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to one count of aggravated robbery with intent to kill, maim or wound with a weapon.
Police and prosecutors said the trio drove to Durango from Texas to purchase marijuana, but they never intended to pay for the marijuana and instead planned to rob the individuals of the marijuana.
Goff and Jones were inside the home during the robbery, while Rios waited in a black sedan with the engine running in the driveway, according to police and prosecutors. Jones pointed a gun at those inside the home and demanded the victims empty their pockets and hand over their wallets. At some point, Gaytan lunged toward Jones, and Jones fired his weapon, hitting Gaytan in the chest.
First-degree murder in Colorado carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the chance for parole. Jones’ attorneys argued that because Jones was 19 when he committed the crime, it would be unconstitutional to sentence him to life in prison.
But Herringer disagreed with that interpretation of the law.
“The defendant was 19 years old and showed prior planning,” Herringer said before imposing a life sentence. “I don’t see a factual record that the statute is unconstitutional.”
As sheriff’s deputies led Jones out of the courtroom, he looked back to his mother and said, “I love you, mama.”