Local News in Brief : Tonga Native Gets 3 Years in Kicking Death

An immigrant from the South Pacific island of Tonga was sentenced Tuesday to 3 years in prison for his role in the death of a transient in a Van Nuys park.

Finau Maka had been charged with murder but was allowed to plead guilty on Nov. 15 to one count of assault with a deadly weapon in the death of John Mordechi.

Mordechi, 36, lapsed into a coma and died after being kicked on Sept. 7 by more than two dozen men with whom he and a companion had argued at Woodley Park.

Prosecutors said Maka was allowed to plead guilty to the lesser assault count because it would be difficult to prove that Maka caused the death since several men took part in beating Mordechi.

Under terms of the plea bargain, Maka was guaranteed a sentence of no more than 4 years in prison, officials said. Saying Maka had no prior criminal record, Van Nuys Superior Court Judge Alan B. Haber sentenced Maka to the 3-year term.

Prosecutors said the incident is still under investigation, and others may be charged.

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