Charges against a woman prosecutors accuse of shooting a man to death in a city parking ramp after last year’s Freakfest Halloween celebration were reduced Monday from first-degree intentional homicide to first-degree reckless homicide.
Assistant District Attorney Tracy McMiller said the reduced charge against Kenyairra I. Gadson, 22, better fits the known facts but also limits Gadson’s bid to justify the Oct. 28, 2018, shooting as self-defense, though Gadson’s attorneys dispute that contention. One called the reduction “gamesmanship.”
Gadson, of Madison, was initially charged with first-degree intentional homicide for the shooting death of Steven Villegas, 21, at the Frances Street side of the State Street Campus Garage. A criminal complaint states the shooting stemmed from a simmering, years-long conflict between Gadson and a man who was with Villegas, Donivan Lemons. At the time, the complaint states, Gadson told police she didn’t know Villegas and had only fired the gun to scare a group of adversaries away from her and another person.
First-degree intentional homicide carries a mandatory life sentence. First-degree reckless homicide carries a maximum of 60 years of combined prison and extended supervision, with another five years added because Gadson is alleged to have used a dangerous weapon.
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Under state law, McMiller argued, a reckless homicide charge will make Gadson’s ability to argue self-defense much more limited. She also argued Villegas, as someone who was not directly involved in the conflict between Gadson and Lemons, was an innocent third-party bystander and not someone from whom Gadson was protecting herself.
But Gadson’s lawyers, state Assistant Public Defenders Laura Breun and Jessica Garrity, argued that doesn’t matter. Garrity argued that Villegas was by Lemons’ side as a co-aggressor during events that night leading to the shooting.
Garrity also presented a series of events going back to 2014 that she said involve Lemons and Gadson or their friends and family, which show a deepening conflict between the groups, feeding into Gadson’s fear of Lemons. That history contributed to her state of mind the night of the shooting, Garrity said, and support self-defense. Garrity asked Circuit Judge Jill Karofsky to allow testimony about those past events at Gadson’s trial in April.
McMiller countered that some of those events have little to nothing to do with either Lemons or Gadson, and many are not backed by any evidence such as police reports.
Karofsky will rule on those issues at a later date.