Family Members Argue, Removed from Courtroom During Murder Sentencing

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On Nov. 28, a verbal altercation between the families of a homicide victim and the defendant resulted in the removal of both groups during a sentencing in front of DC Superior Court Judge Rainey Brandt.

Alonzo Lewis, 38, was originally charged with two counts of first-degree murder while armed, three counts of possession of a firearm during a crime of violence, assault with intent to kill while armed against a minor, and unlawful possession of firearm, for his involvement in the murder of 40-year-old Jaquon Helm and 35-year-old Venius Badgett on May 26, 2018, on the unit block of Galveston Street, SW. 

On Oct. 6, Lewis accepted a plea deal that required him to plead guilty to two counts of second-degree murder while armed, in exchange for the dismissal of all other charges.

The hearing began with victim impact statements from many of the victims’ family members. who harbored disdain for Lewis, including Helm’s sister, who said “I have no forgiveness for anyone who kills anyone, he needs to never see the daylight again.” 

The family of the victims were also unhappy with Lewis’ body language, with Badgett’s sister saying, “It’s as if we took something from him, the way he looks at us.”

Through the years since the murder in 2018, Badgett’s grandmother found herself finding forgiveness, saying at the sentencing “We need to hold on to the good things,” and “we need to find it in our hearts to forgive.”

Most family members, however, were not able to come to the same conclusion. Many said something along the lines of what Helm’s daughter said, “I will never forgive you.”

Tensions began to rise in the courtroom when Judge Brandt allowed Lewis’ children to speak. His son started by apologizing to the victims, he also said, “My father meant the world to me,” and “Whatever sentence it is we will take it.”

Things began to boil over when Lewis began to speak, he started with, “I want to apologize to the families.” 

Lewis then said, “At the end of the day I didn’t go looking for this.” 

Family members of the victims started yelling, with one claiming “Yes you did.” Lewis’ family started responding, arguing and yelling back across the aisle.

As things began to escalate, many individuals were restrained and removed from the courtroom by US Marshals, while Judge Brandt yelled “Excuse me!” and, “This is embarrassing.”

Ultimately, almost all family members on both sides of the aisle were removed, at the instruction of Judge Brandt.

After things calmed down in the courtroom Judge Brandt expressed her disappointment saying, “You’re not gonna have a brawl in my courtroom,” and “I would expect for adults to act like adults.” 

Lewis resumed speaking, “I want to apologize to the family, especially the children.” He wanted the family to understand what he was going through at the time of murder saying, “I thought a man had beat my wife up,” and “I am not a violent person.” 

Lewis ended with, “There’s about 15 children in this situation and all of them were hurt.”

Judge Brandt responded, “I appreciate that [Lewis].” She added that, “Usually on sentencing day [I have] a lot to say; I am for now utterly speechless,” referring to the chaos that had occurred earlier in the hearing.

Judge Brandt imposed a sentence of 15 years for each count, which are required to be run consecutively, with a total requirement of 30 years. Lewis is also required to register as a gun offender and serve five years of supervised release.

As Lewis was being walked out he said, “Have a good rest of your day y’all.”

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