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Man who shot paraplegic gets 10 years Follows brother who crippled victim in 2003 shooting

Ronnie Austin was ordered Tuesday to spend the next 10 years in state prison for shooting a paraplegic man whom his older brother, Jarmell, had shot and left brain-damaged five years before.

After the court session, the defendant's sister told reporters her brother shot Jamal Watts, 31, in self-defense and the victim has been faking his injuries and is able to walk, a claim prosecutors refuted.

Under a plea deal with prosecutors, Austin, 21, pleaded guilty Sept. 9 to reduced felony charges of first-degree attempted assault and a weapons count for shooting Watts twice in the 300 block of Langfield last May 25.

Erie County Judge Sheila A. DiTullio told Austin the shooting of a disabled and wheelchair-bound man was "not a fair fight." DiTullio also bemoaned the amount of illegal guns on the city's streets.

Tanya Austin, 25, the sister of both shooters, said after the sentencing that Watts is faking his injuries and insisted that her younger brother shot him in self-defense.

She said Watts "is not innocent at all, and he can walk and he threatens people."

Prosecutors said Watts, who had recovered from a street shooting 12 years ago, has been paraplegic and unable to speak since Jarmell Austin, now 27, shot him to stop a dice game after a funeral in the Kenfield-Langfield projects on July 2, 2003, Prosecutor Brian McNamara said.

Defense attorney Mark Worrell said Austin was pressured by friends of his imprisoned brother, Jarmell, to shoot Jamal Watts last May.

Worrell declined to comment on Tanya Austin's statement.

When Ronnie Austin was arrested two days after he shot Watts last spring, he told police he had been pressured by his imprisoned brother's friends to retaliate and made no claims of self-defense, McNamara said.

Three years ago, State Supreme Court Justice Christopher J. Burns imposed a 25-year prison term on Jarmell Austin on his attempted murder conviction for shooting Watts in the head and breaking the nose of another man.

During Tuesday's sentencing, Worrell stressed to the judge that Ronnie Austin "has never denied his guilt" and is remorseful and "plans to make the best of" his time behind bars and come out a better person.

e-mail: mgryta@buffnews.com

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