A Berkeley resident convicted of the 2008 murder of a UC Berkeley student pleaded no contest Friday, accepting a sentence of 12 years in state prison.
Andrew Hoeft-Edenfield, 27, was a student at Berkeley City College when prosecutors say he stabbed Christopher Wootton, 21, in the Chi Omega sorority parking lot in what was described in court documents as an “alcohol-fueled brawl” on May 3, 2008. A UC Berkeley senior and member of the Sigma Pi fraternity, Wootton allegedly grabbed Hoeft-Edenfield from behind, after the latter began waving a pocketknife. The defendant subsequently stabbed Wootton in the heart, fatally wounding him, according to authorities.
Hoeft-Edenfield said he acted in self-defense. In 2010, he was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 16 years to life in prison. The conviction was overturned in April, after his defense attorney Matthew Dalton argued that Hoeft-Edenfield’s former attorney, Yolanda Huang, was inept at criminal law.
Dalton said Huang, who had never tried a murder, did not enter plea negotiations with the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office after it offered Hoeft-Edenfield a 12-year sentence in exchange for a manslaughter plea. He said she had a financial motive for not taking the plea bargain because she was representing the defendant and his friend in a separate civil case against the fraternity members who were present the night of the stabbing.
In April, Judge Larry Goodman ruled that Hoeft-Edenfield had been deprived of the right to effective assistance of counsel and overturned the original conviction.
Neither attorney could be reached for comment.
In September, Hoeft-Edenfield accepted the plea deal in lieu of a second trial, pleading no contest to voluntary manslaughter with use of a knife. He was sentenced last week to 11 years in prison with an additional year added for the enhancement. According to the agreement, Hoeft-Edenfield does not get credit for the three years already served and is ordered to pay restitution.
The defense argued that Hoeft-Edenfield was outnumbered and feared for his life at the time of the incident. Ellen Hoeft-Edenfield told the court Friday that her son was bruised and battered when she saw him at the Berkeley Jail following his arrest, according to San Jose Mercury News. She cited her son’s clear criminal record, arguing that he shouldn’t be in prison.
The prosecution, however, said that Wootton had called the police to help diffuse the situation, which implied Hoeft-Edenfield had the opportunity to leave before the confrontation escalated.
Wootton’s family was not present during the sentencing Friday.
“The family’s pain and grief is palpable to this day,” said Deputy District Attorney Stacie Pettigrew in court, according to San Jose Mercury News. “But this negotiated disposition brings finality to the court process, and the family is accepting the negotiated plea deal.”