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Woman pleads guilty after refusing to testify against boyfriend in murder

A Buffalo woman who refused to answer a prosecutor’s questions at her boyfriend’s murder trial last summer has pleaded guilty as charged to second-degree criminal contempt.

Shakeena Butler, 18, of Hewitt Avenue, initially told Buffalo police that Damone Lewis, 19, had admitted to her that he fatally shot Jeremy Thomas, 21, on Aug. 8, 2012 on Sumner Place, according to Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III.

But when she was called to testify July 10 for the prosecution against Lewis, she repeatedly refused to answer questions posed by Assistant District Attorney Gary Hackbush.

Butler was brought to the witness stand twice and refused to answer any questions, even after State Supreme Court Justice Penny M. Wolfgang warned her that she would be held in contempt and face imprisonment of up to a year.

Another girlfriend of Lewis and one of his friends both testified that Lewis took credit for killing Thomas to collect a $2,500 bounty offered by a man allegedly shot by Thomas two weeks earlier in a dice game.

A jury convicted Lewis of second-degree murder and weapon possession, and Wolfgang sentenced him to 20 years to life in prison.

Lewis received an additional 10 years in prison after he pleaded guilty earlier this year to attempted murder, assault and weapon possession for shooting and paralyzing a 15-year-old girl Aug. 30, 2012, at Wood and Walden avenues.

The shooting occurred after Butler got into a fight with the girl and called Lewis on her cellphone.

Butler faces up to one year in jail on the contempt charge when State Supreme Court Justice Russell P. Buscaglia sentences her July 23.

Assistant District Attorney Danielle N. Soluri prosecuted the case.