Five months after a Muscogee Superior Court jury found Ron Blair not guilty in the downtown shooting death of Keon Coleman, Blair was released from jail Friday after pleading guilty to a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter in connection with the case.
Stacey Jackson, one of three defense attorneys representing the father of six children, said the agreement between Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Cooley and Judge William Rumer is a victory for Blair who had served more than 20 months in the Muscogee County Jail.
As part of the agreement, Jackson said the defense withdrew consideration of a motion of double jeopardy against Blair. On July 2, a jury found Blair innocent of murder, malice murder, aggravated assault, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony and theft by conversion in the shooting of Coleman on March 25, 2012, at Broadway and 12th Street.
At the trial, the jury of five men and seven women didn’t consider an additional felony murder and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon charges. The district attorney’s office had delayed action on the two charges until Friday.
“Those two charges had not been resolved,” said defense attorney Mark Shelnutt. “Today, we were able to resolve those charges.”
Blair, 33, was facing one to 20 years on the voluntary manslaughter charge and one to five on the firearm possession charge. Rumer sentenced Blair to 15 years with 20 months to serve concurrently on the manslaughter charge and five years with 20 months to serve on the firearm’s charge. The rest of the sentence will be served on probation.
Under terms of the agreement, Blair apologized to the Coleman family, must not ever possess a firearm and is banned from residing in the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit, which includes Muscogee, Talbot, Taylor, Harris, Marion and Chattahoochee counties. “He needs to leave the circuit,” Rumer said.
Neither Jackson nor Shelnutt knew where Blair planned to live.
He was ordered not to have any contact with the Coleman family. Blair also waived his Fourth Amendment right, which allows law enforcement to search him or his residence at any time without a warrant.
Blair’s legal troubles started about 1 a.m. that morning as he and his friend James “JJ” Coleman were downtown on Broadway. Walking ahead of Blair, JJ Coleman was singing lyrics to a rap song, “That’s your ho, that’s my ho.”
The song angered Keon Coleman who had words with JJ Coleman in front of Columbus Bank and Trust. Blair told the court he was close to JJ Coleman when Keon Coleman called him a “snitch.”
Keon Coleman and Blair argued shortly before he tossed a red plastic cup with Jägermeister into the victim’s face and fired a .32-caliber Derringer, striking him in the head. Blair testified the victim was reaching toward his waist for a gun before he fired.
Blair fled from the scene. Police found a .40-caliber pistol in bushes at the scene about six hours after the shooting.
Jackson said the court action should be a final resolution in the shooting. “This should be the last or final resolution of all the circumstances involving the shooting,” Jackson said outside Recorder’s Court where the hearing was held.
Cooley wasn’t available for comment on the court action.
Shelnutt said the team of attorneys which included William Kendrick of Columbus worked with Blair a long time to get the case resolved. “I know he is anxious to get back with his family and move on,” Shelnutt said.