‘A big-time break’: J.J. Clavo’s killer, now 19, sentenced; could be free by 23

Keymontae Lindsey caught a break, a Sacramento judge told the Sacramento teen Thursday after a state Senate bill shaved his prison sentence from life in prison to mere years for murdering 17-year-old Jaulon “J.J.” Clavo nearly four years ago.

“You did catch a break – a big-time break,” Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Sweet told Lindsey from the bench at Lindsey’s sentencing hearing Thursday afternoon. “You will be released after a short time. This should be a wake-up call.”

Lindsey’s sentencing ended a long legal journey shaped by the courts and state lawmakers that ultimately led to Lindsey being tried as a juvenile for the deadly November 2015 ambush shooting blocks from the Grant High campus.

Lindsey was 15 when he pulled the trigger.

Had Lindsey been tried as an adult, he would have faced up to 88 years to life in state prison for the point-blank shooting that killed the Grant High School student-athlete and wounded football teammate Malik Johnson hours before Clavo and Grant High were to take the field for a playoff game.

But state law changed under controversial Senate Bill 1391, which went into effect in January and bars juveniles under age 16 from being tried as adults. That meant Lindsey would be tried in juvenile court and could be freed from custody no later than his 25th birthday.

Lindsey’s sentencing on first-degree murder and attempted murder charges was pushed up two weeks from early October after a drug suspect’s purported confession to the killing was discredited. Lindsey was just days away from sentencing in August when Sacramento County prosecutors asked Sweet to delay the hearing to investigate the would-be confession, which Sacramento police failed to pass on to prosecutors.

The man, 21 years older than Lindsey, reportedly said he fired the fatal shot at a fast-food restaurant miles from the murder scene.

“We’re satisfied it has no merit,” Sacramento County prosecutor Casey Newton told Sweet.

How long the now 19-year-old Lindsey will spend in juvenile custody for gunning down Clavo in November 2015, remains unclear.

Until Lindsey is 25? Until he turns 23? How the state’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation interprets changes to sentencing law will determine the term, attorneys said Thursday.

Neither are long enough, said Nicole Clavo, Jaulon Clavo’s mother, who has fought alongside prosecutors to change the law.

On Thursday, she addressed the court, said she forgave her son’s killer, hoped he would find a way to redeem himself behind bars, said she “felt sorry for him because he was born into failure,” as Lindsey’s mother, Ranika Gilmore, looked on from the gallery.

“I forgave him the day I found out it was him. It helped me to walk forward,” Clavo said. “He’ll be out soon. I hope he’ll take the time to break the curse that’s placed upon him. He made a devastating choice that affected his family and mine.”

But, Clavo added, “He’s not getting what he deserved. He’ll have a wife, he’ll have a home....I support his spending the rest of his life in jail.”

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Darrell Smith covers courts and California news for The Sacramento Bee. He joined The Bee in 2006 and previously worked at newspapers in Palm Springs, Colorado Springs, Colo., and Marysville. A Sacramento Valley native, Smith was born and raised at Beale Air Force Base, near Marysville.