Cop Killer Sentenced

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Penifoti Taeotui listens as jurors return a guilty verdict in his murder trial on November 10, 2008.

     Penifoti 'PJ' Taeotui has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the 2006 murder of Oceanside police officer Dan Bessant.

    Taeotui, who is now 18, was 16-years old at the time of the murder. His lawyer argued for a sentence of life with a possibility of parole.

    Cop Killer Sentenced

    [DGO] Cop Killer Sentenced
    Penifoti 'PJ' Taeotui has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the 2006 murder of Oceanside police officer Dan Bessant.

    Defense lawyer Wil Rumble argued that Taeotui did not fire the bullet that actually killed officer Bessant. "He was a child at the time of the offense," said Rumble.

    But Superior Court Judge Runston Maino said Taeotui had many role models in his life that he refused to turn to for guidance. He also noted that Taeotui did not show any signs of remorse.

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    Sentencing of cop killer sends message to those who consider shooting at police officers in Oceanside.

    "I just can't understand this sort of thing. It was deliberate with lack of provocation," said the judge.

    Cameras were not allowed inside the courtroom when the judge handed down his sentence including 56 years on two other counts.

    Steve Bessant, the slain officer's father, did not speak on camera to reporters after the hearing. In court, he told the judge that he "forgave" Taeotui, but asked the judge to impose the maximum sentence.

    Five people, including two uncles, spoke on behalf of the teenager saying he had a difficult upbringing and deserved parole and an eventual chance of redemption.

    Deputy District Attorney Tom Manning said he was satisfied with the decision. "This defendent does not deserve to have a break," said Manning. "We need to send a message to other gang members."

    Taeutui, who was dressed in a green jail jumpsuit, faced forward throughout the hearing and did not show any noticable reaction after the sentence was delivered.  His lawyer whispered to him while shaking his head in disagreement with the judge's decision.

    Outside the courtroom the several members of the teenager's family cried, but did not make any statements.