ROANOKE — Four co-defendants in a Danville gang case are facing greatly reduced sentences after accepting plea deals that dismissed murder charges and the possibility of life in prison.
More plea deals are on the way, court documents show.
Shabba Larun Chandler, Phillip Daekwon Miles, Kevin Lamont Trent Jr. and Kanas Lamont’e Trent all pleaded guilty to racketeering charges in connection with activity by the Rollin’ 60s Crips gang in Danville in recent years. The four are 26, 23, 23 and 22 years old, respectively.
The four were all facing a variety of charges, including murder in the Aug. 20, 2016, shooting death of Christopher Motley in Danville.
The plea deals they accepted this week, though, didn’t include murder charges. The plea deals did specify their sentences will be between 13 and 15 years in prison. Coming into the trial, they were facing multiple charges that carried life sentences.
Now, as defense attorney Jimmy Turk said in an interview Tuesday, his client, Kevin Trent Jr., and the others will get a chance to get out of prison in their 30s.
“He wanted to see his family,” Turk said of Trent. “Now he’s going to get his chance.”
Family members for Kevin and Kanas Trent — who are brothers — were present in court Tuesday. They were pleased but declined to comment. Brian McGinn, spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia, also declined to comment on the plea deals.
Prosecutors offered the plea deals this past weekend, defense attorney Aaron Cook said in an interview Tuesday. The offers came after prosecutors came under fire last week for not providing key pieces of discovery — information the prosecution has on the defendant’s case — to defense attorneys as required. Blame for the discovery snafu has been cast on Danville Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael Newman, who on Friday stepped down as special counsel on the federal prosecution team.
Defense attorneys all called for Chief Judge Michael Urbanski to dismiss the charges as a result of the discovery issue. Urbanski has made it clear in court he does not intend to dismiss the charges for the remaining defendants, but he has been extremely critical of the prosecution’s failure to provide all discovery.
Turk said he’s been involved in around 40 capital murder cases, and it’s “very rare” a defendant gets a sentence with as few as 15 years. He and Cook were pleased with the result for Trent.
“We would have done this [plea deal] from day one,” Cook said.
Urbanski said he would accept the guilty pleas, but wasn’t sure when the sentencing hearings would be. Cook said he believed they will come after a related racketeering and murder trial in January that includes defendants accused of being members of Danville’s Milla Bloods.
All four of the defendants who pleaded guilty admitted to being present when Motley was shot and killed in an ambush at the Southwyk Hills Apartments. Miles was the only one who admitted to firing a gun during the shooting, though.
The target of the shooting, according to the statement of facts in the plea deals, was a rival gang leader named Stevie Wallace. Gang members tried to lure Wallace into a trap and kill him, according to the statement of facts, and “Miles participated and helped direct this plan.”
Armed gang members opened fire on a van, but it was carrying Motley and his cousin instead of Wallace. Motley was killed in the gunfire. Chandler and Kevin and Kanas Trent admitted to being there, but said they didn’t fire their guns. When questioned by Urbanski, Miles admitted to firing his gun.
Motley’s mother, Theresa Davis, spoke to the courtroom over the phone, her voice fraught with emotion. She talked about Motley’s two young boys, and she asked Urbanski to reconsider and hand the defendants sentences longer than 15 years.
“What happened to my son is going to happen to someone else’s child if you let them walk out of there [with a 15-year sentence],” Davis said to Urbanski.
Tuesday’s plea deals won’t be the last in the case. Co-defendant Tenikqua Fuller, charged with being an accessory to gang activity, will plead guilty at a hearing today, according to a filing in the case Tuesday evening.
Terry Grimes, Ashley Ross’ defense attorney, said in court Tuesday he is still negotiating with prosecutors for a plea deal for her. Ross is charged with lying under oath.
Two defendants — Marcus Davis and Deshaun Trent — still face murder charges.
The plea deals read aloud in court Tuesday alleged that Davis, who also goes by “Sticcs,” was the leader of the Rollin’ 60s Crips street gang in Danville starting in 2015, and that the other male defendants in the case were members of the gang. The quartet of co-defendants who pleaded guilty all admitted in court Tuesday to being members of the gang.