Calling it an "egregious crime," a city judge sentenced a Black Guerrilla Family member to life in prison for executing a learning-disabled recruit who didn't meet standards as a drug dealer.
The victim, 18-year-old Derius Harmon, was shot in the eye two days after he joined the gang because he had made mistakes handling drug money. His body was dumped in a vacant house in the 2200 block of Barclay St., where it was found May 2, 2007.
On Thursday, Judge John C. Themelis sentenced Bryant Williams, 25, of the 5400 block of Todd St., to the life term, plus 20 years for using a handgun in a violent crime, after describing the killing as "one of the most egregious crimes ... that I've heard in a very long time."
Harmon had lived in a group home because of learning disabilities, his mother, Andrea Jones, said in a victim impact statement.
Harmon, who had run away from the group home, sought to join the gang because of "a yearning for acceptance," Themelis said as he built up to a lecture about how the education system had failed those with disabilities, leaving them "cannon fodder" for criminals who exploit their desire to belong.
The gang "provided him housing, apparently clothing and nourishment in exchange for putting him on the street to sell drugs," Themelis continued.
But "there is very little forgiveness by drug dealers with regard to people who mess up with drugs or money," he said.
Themelis described the people who perpetrated the crime as thugs, including those who supplied the weapon, ammunition, cell phones and other tools of the drug trade.
"I would have imposed the same sentence on the man who gave him that gun" as an accessory before the fact, the judge said, his voice rising.
The judge sentenced Williams to serve the first five years without parole.
Assistant State's Attorney Kevin Wiggins said Harmon had been an impressionable young man who chose the wrong people for support.
Many of Williams' family members had died early in his life. "I thought he would maybe have more value for life," Wiggins said.
Williams was convicted in April based on testimony by a witness who had heard about the crime but did not see it.
During his opportunity to address the court, Williams denied knowing Harmon or being involved in the crime, saying he had been trying to get his life in order.
Harmon's mother, speaking outside the courtroom, said through tears that she was happy that justice had been served.
"Nobody has the right to take a life," she said.