URBANA — A Champaign man involved in a shooting a year ago that left a bystander gravely wounded has been sentenced to 12 years in prison.
Despite telling Judge Tom Difanis that he was not the shooter, Deveonta Lindsey, 26, said he accepted responsibility for his actions and was sorry for what happened to the woman, a friend of his, who spent 12 days in the hospital, four of them in a coma.
The woman was a passenger in a car on North Hickory Street in Champaign on Nov. 18, 2018, when another car driven by Lindsey pulled up alongside the one she was in and others in his car opened fire. People in the woman’s car fired back. She was hit at least twice, the only victim struck in the exchange.
Champaign police Detective Robert Sumption testified that police found evidence of several bullet shells from two different .380-caliber handguns.
Difanis sentenced Lindsey for unlawful use of weapons by a felon, a reduced charge to which he pleaded guilty in October after agreeing to testify against co-defendant Donnie Caldwell.
Caldwell, 22, of Champaign, is due back in court Dec. 17 to face charges of aggravated battery with a firearm, aggravated discharge of a firearm and unlawful use of weapons by a felon, the same charges Lindsey faced before his negotiated guilty plea.
Sumption said witnesses indicated there was a third man in Lindsey’s car, but the man originally arrested and charged — 26-year-old Dante Pickens — was released in April after Sumption investigated further and confirmed he was not involved. No other person has been criminally charged.
To aggravate Lindsey’s sentence, Assistant State’s Attorney Kristin Alferink had Sumption testify about several calls Lindsey made to another man while he was jailed between June 3 and 24 in which the two talked about bribing the victim so that she would not testify against him. The offers of cash discussed ranged from $35,000 to $50,000.
Sumption said he also obtained records of information deleted from Lindsey’s phone, including a search for “how to break down a .380 Cobra,”; research on Illinois’ armed habitual criminal statute; a photo of Lindsey holding a grocery bag that contained two bottles of orange juice and a handgun; and a photo of him and two other men wearing clothing with the words “Roc Block.”
Roc Block, Sumption said, is the name of a street gang that solidified in the wake of the July 2014 murder of Rakim Vineyard, 22, in Champaign and was partly responsible for a rash of gun violence in Champaign and Urbana for more than two years afterward.
On cross-examination by Lindsey’s attorney, Jamie Propps of Champaign, Sumption said it was true that a month after the shooting, Lindsey gave him the clothing he was wearing that night to be examined for gunshot residue. However, the detective said when he opened the bag, it smelled like it had been freshly laundered. No gunshot residue was found by the crime lab, he said.
Arguing for the maximum sentence of 14 years for Lindsey, Alferink called the shooting “nothing short of absolutely senseless” and said Lindsey had shown no remorse.
In a written statement to Difanis, the victim said she the gunshots knocked out her teeth and left her face permanently scarred and her smile crooked. She said she had to learn to talk and walk again, can’t sleep and needs anti-anxiety medication.
“I feel like Deveonta Lindsey should get the max so he understands it’s not OK to walk around with guns shooting them. It’s innocent people dying over a senseless beef,” she wrote, adding that her son’s father died from gun violence.
Lindsey told the judge he grew up without a father and wanted to do better by his three children, the youngest of which just turned 1.
“I’m trying to break the cycle,” he said.
He said he intends to get his GED and when released from prison help young boys who don’t have fathers.
Alferink noted that Lindsey was on probation for possession of a controlled substance and had other convictions for unlawful use of weapons by a felon and mob action and juvenile adjudications for mob action and battery. She noted that his adult convictions came after the birth of his children.
She also wondered how the unemployed gang member intended to pay the victim thousands of dollars not to testify.
Propps argued for a minimum sentence of three years in prison, saying Lindsey had pleaded guilty, was not the shooter and agreed to testify against Caldwell. She said he’s taken anger-management classes while in jail for 327 days.
Before his arrest, he was active in the lives of his children and his imprisonment would be a hardship to them, she argued.
Difanis said even if Lindsey wasn’t shooting, he “placed himself in a situation while armed with others, intent on shooting,” an “all-too-common theme” in our community.
Saying a message of deterrence had to be sent, Difanis asked: “One has to wonder: Is anyone out there listening when these young men are sentenced to the Department of Corrections for long periods of time?”