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Local News in Brief : Immigrant Admits to Assault in Man’s Death

An immigrant from the South Pacific island of Tonga pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of assault with a deadly weapon in the death of a transient.

Finau Maka, 19, was originally charged with the murder of John Mordechi, 36, who died Sept. 7, 5 days after a fight at Woodley Avenue Park in Van Nuys.

Mordechi and an acquaintance argued with more than two dozen men, who subsequently kicked and beat Mordechi’s head and body. The companion was not injured, but Mordechi lapsed into a coma and died after several days on a life-support system.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Andrew W. Diamond said Maka was allowed to plead to the lesser charge because it would be difficult to prove that he caused the death since a number of men took part in the beating.

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The incident is still under investigation, and other men may be charged in Mordechi’s death, Diamond said.

Under terms of the plea bargain, Maka faces a maximum sentence of 4 years in prison, Diamond said. Van Nuys Municipal Judge Leslie Ann Dunn set sentencing for Dec. 6 in Van Nuys Superior Court.


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