Michael Garten, Charged in OC's Bloodiest Jailhouse Murder, Pleads Guilty

Categories: Breaking News
Courtesy OCDA
Michael Garten's booking photo
Michael Garten, one of nine inmates charged in the October 2006 beating death of John Chamberlain, a Mission Viejo software engineer, has pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter.

In a deal first reported by the OC Register's Larry Welborn yesterday, Garten received a sentence of 20 years in prison, with credit for the four years he has spent behind bars. The agreement is the first such deal to be reached; if convicted, the eight remaining inmates face life in prison.

Prosecutors acknowledge Garten was not one of the instigators of the attack, but cited evidence he'd punched Chamberlain, who was awaiting trial for possession of child pornography, a few times. As the Weekly previously reported, one of the defendants, Jared Petrovich, a so-called shot-caller for the white inmate gang, the Woods, alleges that a guard named Kevin Taylor told him Chamberlain was a "chester," slang for child molester and advised Petrovich to subject him to jailhouse justice. Petrovich told his story in an exclusive interview with the Weekly in April 2008.

In another exclusive interview with the Weekly, Petrovich's fellow inmate Stephen Carlstrom, the Woods "house mouse," responsible for passing messages to shot-callers, supported Petrovich's claim. In the wake of the murder, Taylor, who insisted he knew nothing about the planned attack but was watching TV in a nearby guard station at the time, was fired, along with several other deputies who were either sleeping on the job or obstructed the murder investigation.

In an interview today, Ashley Garten told the Weekly that her husband was relieved to have signed the plea agreement so he can begin serving his sentence. "I'm happy," she said. "I'm glad it's not a life sentence and that he has a release date."

Garten will be eligible for parole in 2016.

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