Buffalo man, 19, gets 20 years to life for slaying linked to bounty - The Buffalo News
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Buffalo man, 19, gets 20 years to life for slaying linked to bounty

A Buffalo teenager, convicted of fatally shooting a man to collect a $2,500 bounty, was sentenced Tuesday to 20 years to life in prison.

Damone Lewis was 17 when he shot the man two summers ago in broad daylight on an East Side street.

Lewis, now 19, appeared before State Supreme Court Justice Penny M. Wolfgang on his murder and weapon convictions in the Aug. 8, 2012, fatal shooting on Sumner Place.

A jury returned the guilty verdict July 14, convicting him of shooting Jeremy Thomas, 21, who died two weeks later in Erie County Medical Center.

The defendant had faced a minimum prison term of 15 years to life and a maximum of 25 years to life.

Before he was sentenced, Lewis told the judge he felt sorry for the Thomas family’s loss, but he said he had nothing to do with the victim’s death.

“The jury disagreed, and this court disagrees,” Wolfgang replied. “You cannot settle disputes and differences in the community by resorting to violence, by shooting someone. You’re a danger to the community. The court is bound to put you away so that you will no longer endanger the community.”

She also sentenced Lewis to 15 years in prison for second-degree criminal possession of a weapon. She ordered that sentence to run concurrently with the murder sentence.

The victim’s aunt watched from the courtroom’s gallery but did not address the judge before sentencing.

Joseph Agro, Lewis’ attorney, called it a sad case, noting that no one from his client’s family was in court to support him as he faced a life sentence.

He said he would appeal the conviction.

Prosecutors contended that Lewis shot Thomas to collect a bounty offered by Derek Beard, whom Thomas allegedly shot during a dice game July 27, 2012, on Brinkman Street.

At trial, Shakeem Pierce, a friend of the defendant, testified Lewis told him that Beard had offered $2,500 for “Jeremy’s head” and that “I’m going to collect.”

Pierce also said he saw Lewis after the shooting, and Lewis made a slashing motion with his hands across his neck.

Another witness, Brianna Johnson, told jurors she saw the shooting as Thomas walked along Sumner with a pizza box in his hand. She identified Lewis as the shooter.

One of Lewis’ girlfriends testified that he took credit for shooting Thomas.

Shakeena Butler, another girlfriend who was under subpoena to testify on behalf of the prosecution, was brought to the witness stand twice and refused to answer any questions, even after Wolfgang warned her that she would be held in contempt of court and face imprisonment of up to a year.

Days after Thomas died, Lewis allegedly shot Angelica Soto, paralyzing the girl, who was 15 at the time.

He was charged with attempted murder, assault and weapon possession in the Aug. 30, 2012, shooting at Wood and Walden avenues. About 15 minutes before the shooting, Angelica and some other girls had an altercation with Butler.

Angelica identified Lewis as the shooter shortly after the incident. A nationwide manhunt led to his apprehension by the U.S. Marshal’s Service on Nov. 5, 2012.

Last September, Lewis pleaded guilty to shooting Angelica. But when it came time to sentence him in January, she changed her story and said Lewis was not the shooter.

Agro asked Erie County Judge Sheila A. DiTullio to let his client withdraw his guilty plea.

Assistant District Attorney Gary Hackbush opposed the motion, arguing that Lewis had tried to intimidate the key witness.

The judge allowed Lewis to withdraw the plea.

Lewis, of Gibson Street, faces a jury trial in October before DiTullio.

email: jstaas@buffnews.com

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