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Michael Gaten will still frequent the Williamsburg-James City County Courthouse, but he will be on the defense’s side of the room starting in June.
Gaten, who has served as assistant commonwealth’s attorney at the courthouse on Monticello Avenue since 2012, is taking the place of Richard Rizk — who was appointed to replace Judge Richard AtLee on the York-Poquoson Circuit Court bench — at the law firm of Geddy, Harris, Franck & Hickman LLP.
A Hampton native and College of William & Mary alumnus, Gaten lives in James City County and will specialize in criminal defense, domestic relations, personal injury and family law at Williamsburg area’s oldest firm, located on Jamestown Road.
“I think the thing I enjoyed most about prosecution is it’s a way to help people in need in the sense of bringing them justice,” Gaten said.
On the defense side, “good people make mistakes,” he said. “They need help, too, and [need] someone to advocate for them.”
Before serving in Williamsburg and James City County, Gaten worked in the prosecutor’s office in Newport News and Chesapeake.
Gaten will continue to work with Williamsburg-James City County Commonwealth’s Attorney Nate Green and a team of four other prosecutors until May 29.
“Mike has been a tremendous prosecutor for us, a wonderful mentor for the younger attorneys and law students that come through our office, and a good friend to me,” Green said in an email.
Green said Gaten’s biggest success in the office was the prosecution of Tyshaun Thomas, a “violent criminal that callously murdered a young man from Williamsburg simply for looking at him the wrong way.”
Thomas was sentenced to life in prison for killing 23-year-old Dontae Howard and wounding Leonard Walker outside the Clarion Hotel in Williamsburg after a Christmas party Dec. 8, 2011.
Most recently, Gaten took on the cases of four men who broke into an apartment in Lafayette Village with guns and robbed its occupants of drugs and money, leaving one man with a bullet wound to the neck.
The four men — D’Andre Andrews Hardy, Marklin Antonio Mitchell Jr., Devonte J. Hayes and Christopher Allen Williams Jr., — all pleaded guilty to robbery-related charges.
“For Mike, every case deserved his best and that is exactly what he gave,” Green said. “He will be sorely missed, but I am confident that his positive attitude and genuine kindness have rubbed off on us enough that even after he is gone, a little bit of him will always remain.”