Two of three defendants in the Sept. 3, 2010, fatal shooting of Brian Alexander Brown at Columbus’ Johnston Mill Lofts pleaded guilty Monday as the third went to West Central Georgia Regional Hospital for a psychological evaluation.
As they pleaded before Superior Court Judge John Allen, Cordiary Antwon Bell and Gustavious Antonio Perry told prosecutor William Hocutt that co-defendant Daniel Jerrell Wright fired the shots through Brown’s apartment door that killed the alleged drug dealer during a botched armed robbery.
They said it was the second time they went after Brown’s money. The three on Aug. 22, 2010, had successfully robbed Brown’s girlfriend at the First Avenue apartments, said Bell and Perry.
But on their second try, Wright and Bell confronted Brown, who refused to cooperate and shut the door in their faces, provoking Wright to start shooting, authorities said.
Perry’s role in that incident was unclear Tuesday. Perry would not testify that he went to Brown’s apartment that day, but he did tell the court Wright and Bell enlisted his aid before the incident, telling him they were going to “hit a lick,” or commit another robbery.
He said Wright later told him about shooting through Brown’s door.
Perry pleaded guilty to criminal attempt armed robbery. He was sentenced to 20 years, with five to serve and the rest on probation. His prison time will be reduced by the 26 months he has spent in jail since his arrest.
Bell initially refused to plead guilty Tuesday, telling Allen he had been in jail for three years and had heard nothing about his case until a couple of months ago. Saying his constitutional right to a speedy trial had been violated, he rejected the sentencing deal and pleaded not guilty.
But after Perry’s plea, Bell came back and accepted an agreement to serve 17 years in prison and 20 years on probation, with the time he’s already spent in jail deducted from his prison sentence. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter and armed robbery.
Defense attorneys said Bell never intended to shoot Brown, and that day went to Brown’s apartment with an unloaded gun. In exchange for pleading guilty, prosecutors agreed to drop other armed robbery cases against him – cases that could have got him life in prison.
That left Wright, the third defendant and alleged triggerman, whose attorney said he suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, and his condition deteriorated when he was placed in isolation while in the Muscogee County Jail. Wright’s odd behavior in court Monday prompted Allen to order he be re-evaluated to determine whether he’s competent to stand trial.
A psychologist reported Tuesday morning that Wright’s conduct warrants more extended observation, so he will remain at West Central until further notice, attorneys said.