An Omaha man who said he fatally shot James L. Edwards because he suspected him of beating his brother will have at least 35 years in prison to learn that the law takes a dim view of vigilantism.
Ramone D. Jefferson was given 70 to 90 years in prison Thursday for second-degree murder. Jefferson, 30, will be eligible for parole in 35 years and, under state sentencing guidelines, must be released after 47½ years.
“Vigilantism is never a good idea, and society doesn't condone it,” said Douglas County District Judge Gary Randall. “It's not in any way justified.”
Jefferson agreed to a plea deal in which a charge of first-degree murder was amended and use of a weapon to commit a felony was dropped. He will be credited with 359 days served.
Defense attorney Matt Miller asked Randall for a sentence on the “lower end” of the spectrum because his client was involved emotionally by the injuries to his brother and because he was caught up in drugs.
Prosecutors said Edwards, 27, was shot and killed in front of his family because Jefferson sought revenge on behalf of his badly beaten brother.
Police testified that Edwards was one of three men to send Jefferson's brother to the hospital in a 2 a.m. fight April 1, 2012, near a dance club at 114th Street and West Dodge Road.
Edwards was arrested at the scene on suspicion of disorderly conduct and failure to disperse. Just before 6 p.m. that same day, Edwards was in front of his family's home at 4118 N. 26th St.
Jefferson approached, police said, and the two men walked a bit and talked. According to Edwards' father and sister, who were on the front porch, Edwards began to walk away and Jefferson started shooting.
Jefferson ran, and Edwards' father, despite his shock, gave chase. The elder Edwards didn't catch the shooter, but he did grab a key piece of evidence: his ballcap.
The DNA swabbed from the hat matched Jefferson.
Assistant County Attorney Matt Kuhse said Jefferson would have faced a first-degree murder charge except that one witness refused to testify and another is dead.
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