Jurors found a Columbus motorcyclist not guilty of all charges Friday in a neighbor’s fatal Independence Day stabbing provoked by a confrontation over his driving.
The jury deliberated almost three hours before finding Antonio Brown not guilty of murder and aggravated assault in the July 4, 2017, stabbing of Pedro Carmoega on Columbus’ Big Creek Drive off Double Churches Road.
Though Brown also had been jailed on an unrelated aggravated assault charge in another incident, he previously was released on bond in that case before being indicted in Carmoega’s death, so he was to be released again Friday evening, said his attorney Stacey Jackson.
Citing Georgia’s “stand your ground” law that says someone in fear of bodily injury can respond with deadly force if attacked, Brown claimed self-defense.
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After the verdict Friday, Jackson said he believed a crucial factor for the jury was that the Carmoegas chose to leave a relative’s home to follow Brown, instead of calling 911 to report his allegedly reckless conduct on the bike.
“I think one of the critical factors was that the alleged victim in the case left their home, went down the street, then took a left on another street, and then along with two others approached Mr. Brown and confronted him, which put Mr. Brown in fear of receiving a serious bodily injury,” Jackson said.
“When a reasonable person has fear, even without being assaulted, they can defend themselves,” he added. “I think the evidence is pretty clear that Mr. Brown did not initiate the contact between himself and Pedro Carmoega, and that it was actually Mr. Carmoega and his brother and his nephew that accosted Mr. Brown, which required him to use deadly force to defend himself.”
Brown took the witness stand Wednesday and Thursday to explain his actions, saying he stabbed and slashed Carmoega after being assaulted as the man confronted him on the street and grabbed onto his three-wheeled motorcycle.
The confrontation followed Brown’s riding the bike past a Big Creek Court home where Carmoega and his family had gathered to celebrate the holiday. The victim’s brother, Michael Carmoega Sr., thought Brown was going too fast with his 6-year-old son on the bike, and yelled for him to slow down.
Brown testified the brother didn’t just yell as he passed, but got in front of him and grabbed the handlebars, forcing him to stop, and told him, “You need to stop speeding up and down this m----r-f-----g road.”
Brown rode on, after that, but the Carmoegas decided to follow him to get a tag number. Michael Carmoega Sr. left in a Cadillac, and his brother Pedro Carmoega and son Michael Carmoega Jr. followed in the son’s white Toyota Tacoma pickup.
Brown said after his run-in with Michael Carmoega Sr., he rode back to his home on Big Creek Place, dropped off his son and went riding again.
He rode back up Big Creek Place to Big Creek Drive to turn east, and that’s where a white pickup truck tried to cut him off, he said. Continuing east, he came upon a car parked along the road, and then a second car came up alongside it, blocking his path, the headlights shining in his face, he said.
As he stopped there and got off the bike, Michael Carmoega Jr. came running up to him, yelling, “What’s up? What’s up? What’s up?” Brown heard doors slamming and others approaching, so he pulled out a knife and said, “I’m not going to let y’all jump on me.”
Michael Carmoega Jr. ran off, Brown said. He then realized his bike was rolling away, and someone hit him as he ran to catch it, he said. Then Pedro Carmoega grabbed onto the bike, and hit a switch that cut the engine off, he said.
Brown restarted the bike, and began slashing backhanded at Pedro Carmoega with the knife as he throttled up to get away, he said. He did not know he had stabbed the man in the chest and cut his throat, but remembered slashing his arm.
He made a U-turn and went home, where his wife called the police.
His account differed significantly from Michael Carmoega Jr.’s testimony that Brown drove head-on at his white pickup on Big Creek Place, got off the bike and approached the driver’s side saying, “Come on, b---h!”
His uncle got out of the passenger’s side and walked to the driver’s side of the pickup to block Brown’s approach, before Brown stabbed the uncle in the chest and cut his throat, the nephew said.
Pedro Carmoega grabbed at his throat as Brown got back on the bike to leave, and the wounded man began to fall and grabbed the passing bike to balance himself, the nephew said. Slashing backhanded with the knife, Brown left a gash on Pedro Carmoega’s arm and dragged him 10 to 15 feet, the witness said.
Carmoega died of his injuries days later in the emergency room.
Though Brown, 42, was tried for murder, police initially decided he was the victim and the Carmoegas were the aggressors, and filed misdemeanor assault charges against them.
After further investigation, they dismissed the Carmoegas’ charges in July 2018. On Nov. 20, 2018, a Muscogee County grand jury indicted Brown on charges of murder and aggravated assault.