URBANA — A Champaign man who admitted he accidentally killed his girlfriend earlier this year has been sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Antonio L. Brown, 20, who listed an address in the 1300 block of Paula Drive, pleaded guilty Monday before Champaign County Judge Heidi Ladd to involuntary manslaughter and unlawful use of weapon by a felon in connection with the Jan. 11 shooting death of Sydni Kay Blackwell.
Ms. Blackwell, 20, of Williamsport, Ind., died at Carle Foundation Hospital almost 10 hours after being shot by Brown in a room at the Super 8 Motel, 202 W. Marketview Drive, C.
Both she and Brown told police that Brown improperly handled the gun, causing it to fire, about 3 a.m. that Friday.
Assistant State's Attorney Scott Bennett said Ms. Blackwell gave police a recorded statement after her first surgery.
"She initially tried to take the blame and said she had the gun when it went off but when confronted by the evidence, including the entry wound on her side, she admitted he actually had the firearm — a .22-caliber revolver — and that it had gone off while he had it," Bennett said.
Ms. Blackwell died after a second surgery, Bennett said.
After the shooting, Bennett said, Brown helped her get dress and drove her to the hospital.
Bennett said when police confronted Brown with Ms. Blackwell's statement, he eventually confirmed her version of what happened.
"He said, 'I had it and was messing with it.' She knew the gun was there but didn't necessarily know what he was doing with it when it went off," Bennett said.
"It was an accident, a tragic one, but an accident nonetheless," said Bennett, who added that Brown chose to plead guilty at an early stage of his prosecution to spare Ms. Blackwell's family a trial.
Bennett said Brown had prior felony convictions for theft with a prior theft conviction and aggravated unlawful use of weapons and misdemeanor convictions for theft and domestic battery.
He pleaded guilty to both counts for concurrent prison terms of 10 years. The maximum for each of those offenses was 14 years in prison. The law allows for him to receive day-for-day credit on his sentence, meaning he'll be out in about five years.
Bennett agreed, in return for Brown's pleas, to dismiss another charge of obstructing justice alleging that Brown got rid of the gun after the shooting. Bennett said when police confronted Brown with Ms. Blackwell's statement, he agreed to have another person bring the weapon to the Champaign police department.
Brown was represented by Assistant Public Defender Janie Miller-Jones.
He was given credit on his sentence for 60 days already served.