It was a crime that Judge Thomas Motley said was a case of “loyalty gone too far.”
Risper, 22, was found guilty of first degree murder while armed, plus two weapons charges, in a March trial. Jurors found that in Nov. 2010 Risper and his co-defendant, Kwan Kearney, chased 19-year-old Wilson through the Truxton Circle neighborhood then engaged in a shootout that left Wilson dead.
The chase was captured on street surveillance cameras. Jurors saw Wilson and his friends passing through the neighborhood and a pizza shop parking lot with Kearney and Risper following them. In the parking lot, Kearney dropped something and stopped to pick it up. Risper raised his right hand in a shrug-like gesture. Prosecutors offered that Kearney had dropped, and picked up, his gun and that Risper’s shrug meant “come on, let’s go.”
Wilson was killed in a shootout just moments later. A .45-caliber bullet from Kearney’s gun struck him in the side. Wilson is believed to have returned fire.
Motley said the evidence in the case had been “overwhelming.”
“To be loyal is a good thing, but you have to draw the line,” Motley told Risper Friday. “Helping someone kill another person is not a good thing. That’s loyalty gone too far.”
Risper intends to appeal his conviction.
At sentencing Friday, Prosecutor Michael Ortwein said that Risper did not actually pull the trigger that resulted in Wilson’s death, but that he was criminally liable and guilty.
“Mr. Risper was prepared to assist and he knew he was assisting in a premeditated murder,” Ortwein said.
Prosecutors and defense attorney’s had recommended a 30-year sentence for the first-degree murder charge. That sentence would have been the minimum required by law.
Thomas Heslep asked Motley to take into consideration that Risper had testified in a DC murder case several years ago. That action would make his life in prison especially difficult, Heslep said, adding that because of that Risper was entitled to the lowest term possible.
“Your Honor,” he said. “Serving 10 years with a label [of being a government witness] is worse than serving 30 years without.”
Heslep said Risper intends to appeal his conviction and he told the court that he had advised Risper not to make a statement at sentencing.
When asked if he wished to speak, however, Risper addressed his family.
“I just want to let my mother know that I love her and my family, and that’s it,” he said, mouthing to them moments later, “I love you.”
In addition to the 35-year murder sentence, Risper was ordered to pay the costs of a headstone for Wilson’s grave.
Risper’s sentence is ten years shorter than the one his co-defendant received; Kearney, who was also found guilty of a separate homicide the same week Wilson was killed, was sentenced to 45 years in prison.
A press release from the US Attorney’s Office is below.
District Man Sentenced to 35 Years in Prison In Slaying of Teenager in Northwest Washington - He and Another Man Armed Themselves and Chased the Victim For Blocks -
WASHINGTON - Jeremy Risper, 22, of Washington, D.C., was sentenced today to 35 years in prison on charges stemming from the November 2010 slaying of a teenager in Northwest Washington, U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. announced.
Risper was found guilty by a jury in March 2012 after a trial in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia of charges of first-degree murder while armed and related weapons offenses. He was sentenced by the Honorable Thomas J. Motley.
A co-defendant, Kwan Kearney, 21, also of Washington, D.C., was convicted of the same charges by the jury. Kearney, who fired the fatal shot, was sentenced in June 2012 to a 45-year prison term in the case.
According to the government’s evidence, Kearney and Risper got into a dispute on the night of Nov. 13, 2010 with the victim, Jamal Wilson, 19, who was a good friend of theirs. Kearney and Mr. Wilson had a falling-out the night of the murder when Kearney got into a fight and Mr. Wilson and other friends of Kearney’s refused to help.
Risper, who had no hand in the dispute, chose to arm himself along with Kearney and joined Kearney in pursuing Mr. Wilson and some friends several blocks through alleys. The pursuit ended in a shoot-out at 12:30 a.m. Nov. 14, 2010, in the unit block of P Street NW, in which Kearney killed Mr. Wilson with a shot through the heart.
The murder of Mr. Wilson was the second committed by Kearney within six days.
Kearney was released from jail on Monday morning, Nov. 8, 2010. That night, he killed another teenager in the District of Columbia. Kearney fatally shot that victim, Joseph Sharps, Jr., 17, in the 1300 block of Holbrook Street NE. The victim and an 18-year-old friend were walking to Joseph’s home when Kearney and another of his associates attacked them. The friend was hit in the leg. Kearney was convicted in December 2011 of first-degree murder while armed and other charges in that attack and later was sentenced to 60 years in prison in that case.
In announcing today’s sentence, U.S. Attorney Machen praised the work of the detectives, officers and mobile crime technicians who investigated the case for the Metropolitan Police Department. He also commended the efforts of those who worked on the case for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Intelligence Analyst Sharon Johnson, Litigation Support Specialist Kimberly Smith, Victim/Witness Advocate Marcia Rinker, and Paralegal Specialists Delissa Rivers and Phillip Aronson.
Finally, he praised the work of Assistant U.S. Attorneys David P. Saybolt and B. Michael Ortwein III, who tried and investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Saybolt also prosecuted the case involving the murder of Joseph Sharps, Jr.