2nd man involved in 2009 fatal shooting in Danville pleads guilty to armed robbery

2nd man involved in 2009 fatal shooting in Danville pleads guilty to armed robbery

DANVILLE — The second man involved in a 2009 drug deal that turned into a fatal shooting could walk free this fall under a new plea agreement with special prosecutors.

On Wednesday, Vermilion County Circuit Judge Nancy Fahey sentenced Davieon Harper, 37, of Danville to 11 years and nine months in prison after he pleaded guilty to one count of armed robbery-serious bodily harm in connection with the Oct. 24, 2009, shooting death of Timothy Shutes Jr. at Elmwood Park.

While he must serve 85 percent of his sentence for the Class X felony, Harper has been at Stateville Correctional Center since 2010 serving a 30-year sentence for murder and armed robbery in the fatal shooting and was credited with already having served close to nine years and five months behind bars. That means he could be released in October, said Assistant Illinois Attorney General William Bryant.

He will be on parole for three years.

When Fahey asked Harper if he had anything to say, he offered his condolences to Mr. Shutes' family.

"I apologize for my part in that crime," he said, standing next to his attorney, Andrew Mudd. He went on to apologize to Mr. Shutes' mother and his own mother and family "for putting them through this stuff."

While a handful of his relatives were in the courtroom, no one from Mr. Shutes' family — all devastated when his cousin, Lafayette Harper, was acquitted of murder in the 20-year-old Danville man's death at his second trial — was in attendance.

While Davieon Harper was convicted of murder and armed robbery in Mr. Shutes' death in 2010, prosecutors believed Lafayette Harper, now 35, was the sole shooter. In 2014, a jury convicted Lafayette Harper of murder and found that he personally fired that gun that caused Mr. Shutes' death. He was sentenced to 65 years in prison. But in 2017, an appellate court reversed the conviction, citing a trial-court error, and he was granted a new trial.

At Lafayette Harper's second trial in January, Davieon Harper testified that his brother, Donterrace, made a deal to sell Randall Smalley and Mr. Shutes 5 pounds of marijuana for $3,500. But knowing that Donterrace didn't have the drugs, Davieon and Lafayette Harper decided to rob them of their money instead.

Under their plan, Davieon would drive the men to the park, and Lafayette would come up to the car, open the back door and snatch the money. Then Davieon would pretend that they had been robbed by an unknown assailant. But as he and Smalley testified, Mr. Shutes struggled to hold onto the bag and was shot in the head with a sawed-off shotgun.

The jury acquitted Lafayette Harper despite testimony from both eyewitnesses, who identified him as the shooter; testimony from a former classmate who said he provided him with shotgun shells; and physical evidence including his fingerprint on the car and phone records showing that Davieon Harper texted him to let him know where the money would be in the car.

Lafayette Harper's attorney, Vermilion County Public Defender Mike Mara, argued that Davieon Harper was lying so he could cut a deal with special prosecutors. In April 2018, Davieon signed a cooperation agreement with them that offered the plea deal in exchange for his testimony against his cousin.

As Davieon Harper walked out of the courtroom on Wednesday, he looked remorsefully at Bryant, the prosecutor, and shrugged his shoulders.

"Tell Billie Jean I tried," he said, referring to Mr. Shutes' mother.

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