Oakland man sentenced to 35 years to life for murdering, robbing acquaintance

- A Berkeley man was sentenced today to 35 years to life in state prison for fatally shooting and robbing an acquaintance inside a West Oakland house two years ago.

James Watson-Dixon, 31, pleaded no contest on March 22 to first-degree murder and using a gun for killing 29-year-old Karlton McFay in the 2300 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Way at about 4:36 p.m. on Sept. 2, 2015.

McFay was pronounced dead at the scene.

The plea agreement, which called for a sentence of 35 years to life, was beneficial to Watson-Dixon because he could have faced life in prison without parole if he had gone to trial and been convicted of murder and two special circumstances: committing a murder during the course of a robbery and committing a murder during a burglary.

Watson-Dixon also was charged with dissuading a witness for allegedly ordering one of the other people who was at the house at the time of the fatal shooting not to talk to police.

In addition, Watson-Dixon was charged with possession of a firearm by an ex-felon because he has a prior conviction for home-invasion robbery in December 2011.

Prosecutors dismissed the special circumstance allegations when Watson-Dixon pleaded no contest to first-degree murder, but he tried to withdraw his plea today, telling Alameda County Superior Court Judge Gloria Rhynes that he was an emotional wreck when he entered his plea and wanted to take it back and stand trial.

But Rhynes denied Watson-Dixon's request, saying that the evidence is that he was of sound mind when he entered his plea and that his plea was voluntary.

Oakland police Sgt. Michael Cardoza wrote in a probable cause statement after the fatal shooting that witnesses identified Watson-Dixon as the person who entered the residence on Martin Luther King Jr. Way, north of West Grand Avenue and near Interstate Highway 980, and pulled a gun on McFay.

Cardoza said that when police interviewed Watson-Dixon he admitted driving to the residence to look for McFay for the purpose of robbing him.

McFay was then shot and killed during the robbery, according to Cardoza.

Watson-Dixon, who lives at 1830 Prince St. in Berkeley, then fled the scene in a new Toyota Camry that was registered to him, Cardoza said.

Watson-Dixon had a temper tantrum in court and called Judge Rhynes names at a pretrial hearing in March, before he entered his plea.

Watson-Dixon's attorney, George Arroyo, told Rhynes today that "despite what the court has witnessed, Mr. Watson-Dixon is actually very cordial and easy to work with."

Arroyo said that since Watson-Dixon has been in custody he's "taken steps to improve his life" by taking an anger management class, studying the Bible and taking other courses, such as one on 'The Great Questions of Life.'"    

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