BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A man who was 16 when arrested in a fatal shooting two years ago will undergo a transfer hearing next month to determine whether his case will be sent to adult court.
Sonny Veleta, now 18, is accused of shooting Cesar Joseph Malta the night of Aug. 12, 2021, on Oregon Street near Kern Street. Malta, 19, was taken to a hospital and pronounced dead.
The hearing was scheduled to begin Tuesday, but Veleta’s attorney, Chief Deputy Public Defender Teryl Wakeman, said a key witness was unavailable, plus he hadn’t received medical reports from Kern Medical.
Prosecutor Cole Sherman said he was ready to proceed — multiple witnesses including the victim’s family were coming to court — but, after further discussion, agreed to a new date in early November. He said he expects the hearing will last three days.
Wakeman said he will make sure his witness, a psychologist, will be present next time.
At a transfer hearing, also called a fitness hearing, a judge considers factors including criminal sophistication, prior criminal history and seriousness of the offense in deciding whether to send the case to adult court.
If convicted as a juvenile, Veleta would be released by his 25th birthday, at the latest. A murder conviction in adult court can result in lifetime imprisonment.