A 21-year-old man was sentenced Friday to 40 years to life in prison in a shooting that wounded four people at a Halloween party nearly two years ago on the University of Southern California campus.
Brandon Spencer, 21, pounded his forehead twice on the desk in court as the judge read the sentence for his conviction on four counts of attempted murder. Sheriff's deputies gathered around Spencer as he sobbed following another emotional court appearance. When he was convicted in February, he shouted expletives.
Before the sentence was announced, Spencer's attorney pleaded with the judge for a lenient sentence.
"Many people have come down here today in support of Brandon," said defense attorney John Blanchard. "The court is able to look at the rap sheet of a defendant. The rap sheet speaks of poor choices the defendant has made in the past."
He asked the judge to consider "the totality of a person's life," noting that Spencer was employed as a licensed security guard and working toward attending college.
Prosecutors portrayed Spencer as a criminal with gang ties and used tweets that had been sent from his phone as evidence. They told jurors during the trial that Spencer was a "documented, well-known" gang member who had been shot in the stomach in August 2011 by an unidentified rival gang member.
Deputy District Attorney Antonella Nistorescu said Spencer was seeking vengeance when he fired at reputed gang member Geno Hall outside the party at USC. Hall, a former Crenshaw High School football standout, testified that he had just been talking to his girlfriend when he was shot and didn't know who did it or why.
"Gang members don't snitch, they don't talk to the police... even rivals," Nistorescu told the jury.
Spencer and Hall, a Rollin' 40 Crips member, had an "ongoing feud over social media fueled by their gang rivalry," according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office.
Three other witnesses testified that it was Spencer who shot Hall and three others: Mysson Downs, Thomas Richie and Davonte Smith.
The defense attorney said Spencer's tweets were just a form of trash talk. Blanchard said he plans to appeal the conviction because of what he described as huge inconsistencies in the witness statements.
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"When you consider all the evidence, the huge inconsistencies and holes... it's called reasonable doubt, ladies and gentlemen," he told jurors.
Nistorescu countered that the three agreed that Spencer was the shooter, telling jurors they should expect disagreements on smaller details of the shooting.
The gunfire broke out near a party sponsored by the Black Student Assembly and attended by about 400 people. Neither Spencer nor any of the four victims were USC students.