Two men are dead and Christopher Perkins could spend at least 40 years in prison, but the man who “started this snowball down the mountain” will soon walk free from jail.
Erie County Judge Kenneth F. Case acknowledged Wednesday that justice is being unevenly served in the deaths of Benjamin Gerald, 31, and Deverin White, 30, who died during a confrontation with Perkins on the night of Aug. 23, 2014, at May and Doat streets on Buffalo’s East Side. Perkins was found guilty of two counts of second-degree murder in a nonjury trial in March.
Case sentenced Perkins to 20 years to life in prison on each murder conviction, to run consecutively, and to 15 years each for his convictions of attempted murder and criminal possession of a weapon, to run concurrently. Barring a reversal on appeal, Perkins, who is 24, would be eligible for parole in 40 years.
However, the judge also said he shared the feelings expressed by some of the victims’ family members in letters to the court – that there should be some way that the man who incited the confrontation could also be punished.
Perkins, formerly of Euclid Avenue in Cheektowaga, admitted during his trial that he fired the shots that killed Gerald and White. The victims were back seat passengers in a car that also was carrying the man who had a grudge against Perkins – a man who had punched Perkins a few months earlier, breaking his jaw, and who kept up contact to test the waters on whether Perkins wanted to settle the score.
Perkins testified that he was talking with someone in a car on the night of the shootings when another vehicle driven by a woman and carrying the three men pulled up. When White produced a weapon, Perkins said, he pulled out his own gun and began shooting in self-defense.
He repeated those assertions Wednesday.
“This whole situation is devastating. I did not intentionally kill those men,” Perkins said. “I am not a killer. I am a survivor. I was forced to make a life-or-death decision.”
He added that the court could never understand the complexity of life on the streets and assured his family and the judge that “this fight is far from over.”
Perkins was found guilty of attempting to murder the man who punched him – the one man who escaped the gunfire unharmed.
Of the instigator’s part in the matter, Case said, “The one thing here that I think everyone can agree on is that (he) did start this snowball down the mountain.”
The result, the judge said, was a waste of three lives.
“Look what you’ve done with your life now,” Case continued. “Persons not involved (in the grudge) are deceased. I have two families grieving the loss of loved ones who had nothing to do with this.”
And of the man who threw the first punch, the judge said, “I hope he feels some sense of responsibility. But I doubt it.”
No charges were ever made against that man in the shootings, but he later was jailed on lesser charges for another, unrelated offense.
Attorney Joseph J. Terranova, who is representing Perkins, said he plans to file an appeal immediately.
The courtroom full of family members of both the victims and the defendant remained solemn as the judge imposed the sentence.