Two men, accused of killing Bernard Lewis as he stumbled drunk and high down a Southeast DC street, were sentenced today to four- and five-year prison terms after pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter.
Timothy Shade and Deshaun Johnson each told the court Friday morning that Lewis’s death was an accident.
According to the government’s evidence in the case, Shade and Johnson were sitting on a porch in Southeast DC with women and children in the early evening of Aug. 31, 2010. Charging documents state that Lewis was hanging around the front of the house and was stumbling and falling. Shade and Johnson tried to get him to leave, but Lewis instead tried to come up on the porch. Johnson told investigators that he punched Lewis to stop him from trying to get up on the porch.
The punch knocked Lewis back to the ground; he struck his head and was knocked unconscious. Johnson and Shade tried to flag down a car to take Lewis to the hospital. A member of Lewis’s family drove by, saw them, and picked Lewis up. Shade and Johnson helped load him into the car. The family member, believing Lewis was intoxicated and not knowing he was injured, left him in the car overnight. In the morning Lewis wasn’t breathing, and he was taken to the hospital where he died.
Shade and Johnson were each indicted on a charge of second-degree murder in March 2011. In December 2011 they each pled guilty to voluntary manslaughter.
Attorneys for the defendants, Timothy Shade and Deshaun Johnson, told Judge William Jackson that they had urged their clients to go to trial instead of plea.
“I certainly believe a meritous defense could have been put forward, especially in regards to homicide,” Shade’s attorney, Attiq Ahmed, said.
Said Johnson’s attorney, Lauren Bernstein, “These two men were on the porch enjoying the evening. They were afraid of what [Lewis] was going to do. When someone is on PCP, hospitals have to tie people down. [Johnson and Shade] were not trained with how to deal with that.”
Lewis’s family also told the court that they would have liked the case to have gone to trial, but for a different reason.
The agreed upon sentencing range in the plea deal, even at it’s top end, represented a “minuscule amount of time,” Lewis’s sister, Wendy Lewis, said.
“You have broken my heart beyond repair,” she said Friday, addressing Shade and Johnson. “I’m so very disappointed that this didn’t go to trial.”
Added Bernard Lewis’s mother, “They need to be in there for life.”
Lewis told the court about her son’s life: He loved his job at Whole Foods so much that he frequently worked overtime. She nicknamed him “Smiley,” because that’s how he was and that’s what everyone called him.
“He was a happy-go-lucky, giving, kind person,” she said.
Judge William Jackson called the death a “terrible, terrible, tragic loss.”
“The most difficult cases are cases such as this,” he said. “With people who didn’t deserve to die and people who didn’t intend to kill.”
The four year sentence for Shade and five year sentence for Johnson are less than what the government had requested. Prosecutors had asked for five and six year sentences respectively.