Speaking Friday for the first time about the murder charge against him, and that he was convicted of, Kwan Kearney told Judge Robert Richter that he was innocent.
“My condolences to the family,” Kearney said at sentencing, turning slightly to look over his shoulder and glance at the packed courtroom. “But you all got the wrong man. I ain’t never killed a man in my life.”
Kearney did not take the stand during his week long trial in December. A jury found him guilty of first degree murder while armed with aggravating circumstances in the death of Joseph Alonzo Sharps Jr. and assault with intent to kill with regard to the shooting of Sharp’s friend De’Onte Bilbro.
On Friday Richter sentenced Kearney to 45 years in prison on the murder charge and 15 years on the assault charge. The sentences are to be served consecutively, for a total of 60 years in prison.
Dressed in a bright orange jail jumpsuit and a matching orange kufi ringed with green, Kearney stood still and quiet while Richter told him the sentence, and while Richter admonished him for his life choices.
“This was a brutal, senseless crime,” Richter said. “It appears that Mr. Kearney was on this path for several years and it was inevitable that he would end up behind bars.”
Kearney’s attorney, Gene Johnson, had argued that it was another man— Larnell Allen— who was responsible for shooting Sharps and De’Onte Bilbro. Allen was charged as a co-defendant in the case, but testified as a cooperating witness.
On the witness stand he narrated the shooting that left Sharps dead and injured Bilbro. Bilbro also testified about what took place.
Bilbro, then 18, said he and Sharps, 17, were walking home from a nearby gas station, when three guys walked towards them on the sidewalk.
“I looked to see who I was walking past and the tallest one said ‘Whatchya reaching for?’” Bilbro testified. “Joe said, ‘We ain’t reaching for nothing.”
That’s when the shots rang out, Bilbro said, he fell to the ground injured. His left leg lay up against his stomach; he later learned that his femur had been shattered.
Testified Allen, “As soon as [Kearney] pulls the gun he fires,” Allen said of the run-in between Sharps, Bilbro, Kearney, a 14-year-old, and himself. “I withdrew my gun from my hip and I fired. It’s like backing him up. One fires, we all fire.”
On Friday prosecutor David Saybolt said he asked Allen why the shooting happened. Why Sharps was killed and Bilbro injured.
“Kwan was just fucking with him. He liked to fuck with people,” Saybolt said Allen told him.
According to court records, Allen is due in court March 27 for a status hearing in connection with the charges against him in this case.
Kearney is suspected of a second shooting, which killed Jamal Demetrius Wilson, that took place the same week Sharps was killed. A jury trial is scheduled to begin in that case on March 12.
A press release from the US Attorney’s Office is below.
District Man Sentenced to 60 Years in Prison For First-Degree Murder While Armed
and Other Charges in Random Slaying of Honor Roll Student- Victim and His Friend Were Accosted and Shot While Walking on Street-
WASHINGTON - Kwan Kearney, 20, was sentenced today to 60 years in prison on charges stemming from the slaying of a 17-year-old honor roll student and the wounding of a second teenager in a random attack last year, U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. announced.
Kearney, of Washington, D.C., was convicted by a jury in December 2011 of charges of first-degree murder while armed, assault with intent to kill while armed, aggravated assault while armed, and a firearms offense. He was sentenced in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia by the Honorable Robert I. Richter.
According to the government’s evidence, on the evening of November 8, 2010, the decedent, Joseph Sharps, Jr., had just finished his music homework and was visiting with an 18-year-old friend at his home in Northeast Washington. Joseph borrowed $2 from his mother, and he and his friend decided to go to a nearby gas station to buy cigarettes. About 8:30 p.m., on their way back to Joseph’s home, the teenagers passed by Kearney and two other men on the sidewalk in the 1300 block of Holbrook Street NE. As Joseph walked, he had one hand in his pockets and with the other was talking on his cell phone.
As the two groups of young men passed each other, Kearney bumped Joseph. “Stop, pump-faking,” said Kearney. “I’m not pump-faking,” replied Joseph. Kearney confronted him again – “What you reaching for?” Joseph said he wasn’t reaching for anything. According to the testimony of one eyewitness, Joseph then raised his hands and shrugged, as if to say that he had no idea what Kearney was talking about. Kearney then pulled a Colt .38-caliber revolver from his waistband and shot Joseph in the belly. Kearney kept shooting. Joseph’s friend was hit in the leg, and Joseph was also hit in the leg and shoulder.
Joseph managed to call 911, stating, “I’m hit, I’m down on Holbrook.” Soon after that, he died. The wound to the hip went through an artery, causing Joseph to bleed to death on the street.
One of Kearney’s associates also fired a weapon during the attack. Afterward, the assailants ran from the scene.
Neither Joseph Sharps, Jr. nor his friend knew Kearney until they walked by each other on the street that night. In addition to being an honor roll student, Joseph was a varsity basketball and football athlete at Spingarn High School.
“Kwan Kearney robbed our community of a bright, energetic young man who had an outstanding future ahead of him for simply no reason at all,” said U.S. Attorney Machen. “For his destructive and cowardly actions, Kearney will now spend his adulthood behind bars. Today is just another example of the terrible toll that youth violence plays in our communities – destroying the lives of not only the victims but of the perpetrators of violence as well.
Kearney was arrested eight days after the shooting and has been in custody ever since. A co-defendant earlier pled guilty to charges in the case.
In announcing the sentence, U.S. Attorney Machen praised the work of those who investigated the case for the Metropolitan Police Department, including Detectives Anthony Paci and Sean Caine, Officers Douglas Hain, Jerry Afari, Herbert Nicholls and Steven Bias, and Mobile Crime Technicians Robert McCollum, Leother Strong, Michael DePrince and Fred Brown. He also commended the efforts of those who worked on the case for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Paralegal Specialist Delissa Rivers, Legal Assistant Lashone Samuels, Intelligence Specialist Sharon Johnson, Litigation Support Specialists Leif Hickling and William Henderson, and Victim Witness Advocate Marcey Rinker. Finally, he praised the work of Assistant U.S. Attorney David Saybolt, who prosecuted the case.