The last suspect convicted in the 2009 videotaped beating death of a Chicago honors student was sentenced Monday to 32 years in prison, ending a tragic case of youth violence that sparked outrage around the country.
Lapoleon Colbert, 20, was convicted of first-degree murder in June for participating in the mob attack on Derrion Albert, 16.
In addition to watching the beating, which was captured on a cellphone camera, a jury heard a recording of a police interrogation in which Colbert admitted kicking Albert in the head and stomping on him while he lay defenseless.
Before his sentencing, Colbert apologized to Albert's family and pleaded with the judge.
"This is my first offense, have mercy on me," he said, standing to face Albert's family.
But Judge Nicholas Ford was not swayed. He previously had handed down prison sentences of 32 years to two other defendants convicted during separate trials and 26 years to a defendant who pleaded guilty. Another suspect tried as a juvenile was ordered to remain imprisoned until he turns 21.
"There is a growing tolerance of conduct that history would view as unconscionable," Ford said. People better "start understanding that there is a difference between right and wrong."
The September 2009 fight erupted near Fenger High School on the city's South Side where Albert and Colbert attended classes. In the video, Albert's attackers are seen punching and kicking him, slamming him over the head with boards and stomping on his head.
The sight of Albert trying to defend himself against waves of attackers, staggering to his feet and then crashing to the street again as he was unable to cover his body from all the kicks and punches, prompted Chicago police and school officials to promise dramatic improvements in security around schools. President Obama dispatched two top Cabinet officials to the city to discuss ways to quell the violence.
Albert's family has reacted calmly to the verdicts. To them, the tragedy is about six young men thrown together at the start of the school year and how all their lives were destroyed in a matter of minutes.
"The hard part is now six young guys, basically their lives are over -- Derrion's unequivocally, and these (five) guys are all going away for a long time," said Norman Golliday, the victim's grandfather, in an interview. "Who knows what any of them could have been and what they could have accomplished."
Chicago officials said they implemented programs to help students get safely past neighborhoods where just walking was dangerous -- as well as initiatives such as conflict resolution programs in the schools.