Extra security personnel were in Erie County Court on Monday afternoon for the sentencing of three young men who pleaded guilty to raping an 18-year-old woman in the attic of an East Side home in May 2014.
Friends, family members and supporters of the teenage defendants filled the seats in the front of the courtroom gallery. The victim sat in the back row.
Most of them knew what was coming. Judge Kenneth F. Case made sentencing commitments at the time of the pleas in January, when the three decided at the last minute not to take a chance on being found guilty in a jury trial.
They and two others were accused of raping and sodomizing the young woman over the course of four hours – recording some of the events and later posting them on social media.
The defendants appeared surprised Monday when the judge said the victim was among those observing in the crowded courtroom.
Shameek Young, 18, of Hazelwood Avenue, received nine years in prison for two counts of rape in the first degree and nine years for three counts of criminal sexual act, all to run concurrently.
Case prefaced his sentencing by telling Young that, from the evidence he had seen, “I think there was an atmosphere that contributed to the forcible compulsion in this case, and it appeared you applied more force than anyone else.”
Young angrily refused to sign an order of protection that would make it a crime to contact, confront or communicate with the victim once he is released, and he stormed from the courtroom after the judge pronounced the sentence.
Loud banging could be heard in the holding area outside the courtroom as guards responded.
Before Daqwan Morris, 19, of Hudson Street, was sentenced to seven years each for one count of rape in the first degree and one count of criminal sexual act, he thanked his family, “who know me and know my heart, and helped me through my darkest moments.”
But his calm exploded after the judge pronounced the sentence, when he also refused to sign the order of protection and hollered a stream of profanity at the victim as he was forcibly removed from court.
The third defendant, an 18-year-old who previously pleaded guilty to one count of rape and who was 17 at the time of the crime, was granted youthful-offender status and sentenced to 1 1/3 to four years in prison.
In granting the special status, Case noted that the defendant was only at the scene for a short time and, according to the victim, did not threaten her in any way beyond the sex act.
Prosecutor Ryan D. Haggerty noted that the victim showed courage in coming forward to confront her attackers and that she had been consulted about the sentences and considered them appropriate.
“Inhumanity lies at the center of these crimes. They looked on her not as a person, but as a collection of body parts. They ridiculed her, slapped her and mocked her,” Haggerty said of the evidence on the recording.
“Today she is not looking for vengeance or retribution, but accountability and justice.”
Two other men who participated in the attack, Dequan Rosenthal and Cornelius Caddele, pleaded guilty separately and are awaiting sentencing.