A man who had faced a charge of first-degree intentional homicide that stemmed from a 2016 shootout on a South Side street that left a man dead was sentenced Friday to 10 years in prison on other charges.
Brandon P. Crockett, 29, who in September saw the homicide charge against him dropped after prosecutors said there wasn’t enough evidence to convince a jury that he committed the crime, received consecutive five-year sentences for possession of a firearm by a felon and second-degree reckless endangerment. Crockett had pleaded guilty to those crimes.
Circuit Judge William Hanrahan said Crockett made a terrible decision to emerge from an Ashford Lane apartment building with a gun on Sept. 28, 2016, to face Marsellas B. Coleman, 25, the man Crockett said was harassing him because Crockett was dating a woman with whom Coleman had a child. Coleman was killed in an ensuing shootout.
“What you did was you made the absolute worst choice,” Hanrahan said. “You went downstairs and unloaded your gun toward human beings.”
Crockett’s lawyer, Reed Cornia, said the situation was not one that Crockett created. He said Crockett had driven to his girlfriend’s house in a borrowed car, and throughout the night there, she and Crockett both received text-message threats from Coleman. In the morning, he said, the car Crockett had borrowed was gone, and the tires on the minivan that his girlfriend was going to use to take her son to school had all been slashed.
Cornia said there was a video of Coleman and others slashing the tires and laughing about it.
Crockett called a friend to pick him up, and when Crockett walked out of the building “all heck broke loose,” Cornia said.
After the shooting, Crockett fled to Illinois, where he was arrested nearly eight months later.
Assistant District Attorney William Brown said gunfire from Crockett and from Coleman’s friends left behind 30 shell casings of various calibers, and while it was “more likely than not that Crockett killed Coleman, that is not the (legal) standard.”
When Brown was assigned the case from another prosecutor, he said, he was duty-bound to re-examine it and determine whether the homicide charge against Crockett could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. He said it could not.
Brown said that while he wants justice for Coleman, “I agree with the family that this isn’t it. It’s an extremely sad situation.”
Coleman’s grandmother, Bonnie Goeke-Johnson, ripped police and prosecutors for their handling of the case. She also said it was “appalling” to see Crockett in the Wisconsin State Journal last year, in a story that was part of a series about gun violence in Madison, “that referenced trauma and crisis in people’s lives that are incarcerated.”
“If everything in that article is accurate, Marsellas experienced the same thing,” she said, “yet the shooter is on the front page of the paper and Marsellas is underground.”
Cornia started to ask Hanrahan for a suspended prison sentence and a long term of probation for Crockett, but Hanrahan stopped him and told him to “get real.”
“Frankly, I’m not compelled to elevate hope over history, but you continue your argument,” Hanrahan said.