Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Boy, 14, guilty in fatal shooting

Two others hurt in firing spree

By Sharon Turco
The Cincinnati Enquirer

A 14-year-old South Fairmount boy will most likely spend the rest of his childhood behind bars after pleading guilty Monday to killing one boy, paralyzing another and slightly injuring a third when he sprayed a hail of bullets at them.

The boy claims the victims tormented him for years. Finally, the night of Feb. 20 he said he had had enough.

He borrowed a .380 semiautomatic handgun from an 18-year-old clerk at a convenience store near his Beekman Street apartment and, when the boys came near, he started firing.

One bullet struck Arick Hudson, 15, killing him; another hit Michale Swan, then 14, in the neck, paralyzing him from the neck down; and the third hit Jatawn Swan, then 15, in the shoulder. He has recovered.

Cincinnati police charged the boy with murder and two charges of felonious assault, all three carrying a gun specification that would add time to any sentence imposed.

As the boy's trial was set to begin in Juvenile Court, his attorney, Clyde Bennett, and Hamilton County prosecutors worked out a deal that allowed the boy to plead guilty to a lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter along with the two charges of felonious assault.

"It was the hardest decision I ever had to make," said the boy's mother, Angelina Hunley.

It was better, she said, than letting a jury decide his fate.

Hunley and the boy's father sat as close as they could to their son in the small courtroom.

"He still looks like my little boy," Hunley said.

Sentencing is scheduled for June 18. But because the boy was being prosecuted as a serious youthful offender, it has been predetermined he'd serve any sentence in Ohio's juvenile system. There he can be held until he's 21.

An adult sentence will also be imposed - possibly up to 29 years in prison - but will be suspended, as provided for by law. Should the boy commit another offense while in the system or on community control, the adult sentence can be implemented.

Bennett was happy with the plea.

"I've won a lot of murder cases, but this one in particular was pleasing because he got his life back," Bennett said. "I feel like he's going to be OK now."

Hamilton County Prosecutor Mike Allen said the involuntary manslaughter charge, which means a homicide happened during the commission of a felony, is no less serious than the original murder charge. Both crimes are felony of the first degree.

"A plea was appropriate due to facts of the case and not wanting to put the victims' family through a trial," Allen said.

The victims' families agreed to the plea, he added.

Hunley expects the next years to be difficult, but says at least her son will be able to go to school.

"He'll be able to get his diploma, and when he gets out he can get back on track," she said. "Until then we'll take it one day at a time."

E-mail sturco@enquirer.com

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