Emotions ran high in a Humboldt County courtroom last Thursday as Brian Cole Fiore was sentenced to three consecutive life terms in prison for murdering his 21-year-old friend David Fields following a 2009 marijuana heist.
Family members of Fiore and Fields gathered in the courtroom and watched as Fiore - clad in an orange jumpsuit with a new buzz cut - stood before the judge for sentencing.
Humboldt County Superior Court Judge Christopher Wilson opted to give Fiore a hybrid prison sentence, under which Fiore must serve a determinant term of 68 years and eight months in prison followed by three consecutive life terms. He is ineligible for parole.
Wilson told Fiore - who didn’t have a prior criminal record - to maintain the good behavior he’s shown while incarcerated.
”If you do the right things and make the right decisions from now on, only positive things can happen,” Wilson said.
In May, a jury found the 22-year-old Antioch native guilty of murder, guilty on two counts of attempted murder of a peace officer, guilty on two counts of robbery, guilty of evading a peace officer, guilty of transporting marijuana, guilty of unlawful transportation of an assault weapon and guilty of shooting at an occupied motor vehicle.
Fiore was accused of robbing three men of about 14 pounds of marijuana at gunpoint in McKinleyville on May 11, 2009, with Fields, who was from Humboldt. The pair ended up leading police on a 20-mile, high-speed chase on State Route 299. It ended when Fiore’s Jeep Grand Cherokee went over a spike strip and rolled down an embankment.
Both men were found with gunshot wounds to the head. Fields was pronounced dead at the crash site.
Fiore’s attorney Marek Reavis argued during the case that Fiore acted under duress and did as he was told by an aggressive Fields. Fiore has maintained that he didn’t shoot Fields, doesn’t remember shooting himself in the chin in an attempted suicide and didn’t shoot at police officers.
Reavis filed a motion for a new trial with the court, stating there was insufficient evidence to convict Fiore. Wilson denied the motion Thursday.
During the sentencing hearing, Reavis described Fiore as a young man who only knew Fields for a few months, forming a friendship around driving Fields to marijuana transactions.
”I don’t believe that an individual in three to four months becomes the person the jury thinks (Fiore) is,” Reavis said.
Several of Fields’ relatives spoke during the sentencing.
Anna Smith, Fields’ aunt, addressed the court and said she became Fields’ guardian when he was 11. She acknowledged that Fields hadn’t made the best decisions, but said his life didn’t deserve to end.
”Brian, you took him away, and I’ll never know why,” Smith said. “There are two young men’s lives gone from the two worst things, drugs and money.”
Fields fathered a son at 19, and the boy’s mother, Holly Vitgenus, told the court her son’s inability to have his father around isn’t fair to him, and that she wishes Fiore could understand her pain.
”I’m the one who has to answer to this each time he asks where his dad is - not you,” Vitgenus said.
Fiore said he knows Fields’ family believes he killed Fields, despite his assurances that he didn’t. He apologized to the family for his actions and for their loss.
”I made some bad choices, and now I have to live with them,” Fiore said.
His father, Alan Fiore, said the two men definitely paid the price for their actions. He expressed his condolences to the Fields family, saying it’s hard for him to believe his son killed Fields. He thanked the people who helped saved his son’s life after the shooting and said his son has some work ahead of him.
”I know he’s going to be doing the best he can, and I have to believe that when he’s in prison, he’s going to do good for the people in there,” Alan Fiore said.
The sentencing paperwork is being forwarded to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Brian Fiore will soon be transferred from the Humboldt County jail - where he’s been since his 2009 arrest - to a state prison.
Megan Hansen can be reached at 441-0511 or email@example.com.