Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Douglas County prosecutors appeal sentence District Judge Spethman handed down for shooting into building, killing a child, where judge sentences defendant to prison time concurrent to an existing federal crack dealing sentence WORLD-HERALD Douglas County prosecutors on Monday appealed the sentence given to an Omaha man who killed a 4-month-old baby. County Attorney Stu Dornan said that his office will argue that Judge Richard Spethman was excessively lenient when he ordered Terron Brown to serve his prison term at the same time(concurrent to) a federal drug sentence. In effect, Spethman's order meant that Brown will not serve any more time for killing Deandre Robinson Jr. than the 20 years he is serving for dealing crack cocaine. The sentence outraged the dead child's family - including his mother, Rolisha Easter - and prompted prosecutors to immediately promise an appeal. "There were two separate crimes involved here," Dornan said. "We will be urging the appellate courts to impose a consecutive sentence." Under state law, judges have wide discretion in sentencing matters. Spethman could have sentenced Brown, who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, to anywhere from 20 years to life in prison for little Deandre's death. Spethman sentenced Brown to 30 to 40 years in prison - which computes to 15 to 20 years. Under state law, defendants must serve half the lower term before they are eligible for parole and half the upper term before they are released. To get Spethman's sentence overturned, prosecutors must show that the judge abused his discretion. Dornan said prosecutors will argue that the sentence should have been stiffer - and it should have been served after the drug term. Prosecutors have noted that the killing of Deandre Robinson Jr. had nothing to do with the drug trafficking that landed Brown in prison. Police said Brown targeted Deandre Robinson Sr. because the two men - and members of their rival gangs - had been involved in a fight at a high-school basketball game. At sentencing, Spethman noted that Brown didn't mean to kill the child but still decried the loss of this "totally, completely beautiful, innocent child." He called it "the worst case I've ever had." The judge, who is retiring next month, actually had a somewhat similar case a couple of years ago. In August 2002, Demetrius Nelson, 23, fired a shot into a crowd because he believed he had seen a rival gang member. Nelson instead killed 2-year-old Curtavius "C.J." Boykins and hit a woman who was holding Boykins' hand at a birthday party. Nelson was convicted of second-degree murder and weapon use. Spethman sentenced him to 32 to 37 years. The cases had distinct differences, though: • Nelson fired one shot into a crowd; Brown fired at least 11, at point-blank range, into the picture window of Deandre Robinson Sr.'s small house. • Nelson told Boykins' family that he was sorry. And his attorney said Nelson was haunted by nightmares of the shooting. Brown, who had been charged in another murder until prosecutors dropped the case, expressed no remorse in court. Twice asked by Spethman if he wanted to speak, Brown said, "No, sir." In addition, Nelson wasn't already serving time for another crime, so the judge could not combine the sentences for the separate crimes. The appeal could take about a year.

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