A judge yesterday sent a message to the public by sentencing a third man convicted of shooting and paralyzing 6-year-old Jabar Wright to the maximum term allowed in prison - 62 1/2 to 125 years.
Common Pleas Judge Rayford Means called Raheem Collins, 27, of Strawberry Mansion, "a danger to society." He said his sentence was "for the protection of others."
Collins, his cousin Donte Rollins, 21, and another man, Christopher Powell, 20, were convicted by a jury in December of attempted murder, aggravated assault, and conspiracy and weapons offenses in the Jan. 28, 2006, shooting of the Wright family's car in Strawberry Mansion.
A fourth man, Kevin Norris, was acquitted of all charges.
Authorities had contended that the four men conspired to shoot Jabar's grandfather, Benjamin Wright, because of a prior dispute, and that they aimed at Wright with at least two guns on Westmont Street near 29th, but instead hit Jabar, paralyzing him from the neck down.
Benjamin Wright's then-wife, LaRhonda, and their 10-year-old daughter, Aneena, were also in the car. Jabar, now 8, lives in a nursing home and in all probability will be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
His mother, Alicia Wright, who on Monday turned 25, wept as she looked directly at Collins from the jury box yesterday and gave a victim-impact statement.
"He don't ever enjoy the things he's supposed to enjoy - sneakers piled up to the ceiling," she said of her son.
The "day you take your last breath, I hope you understand what you did to my baby," she said.
She added that Collins also made her have a miscarriage some months ago during the stress of the trial proceedings.
(Wright, who was carrying two babies, gave birth to the other child, a boy named Hanif, May 6.)
Wailing, Wright continued to direct her anger at Collins:
"You looked at him! You looked at my baby [Jabar]! You were the last one to see him! You executed his life, his dreams. There were so many things he wanted to do!"
As Wright cried, Collins looked at her and, licking his lips, seemed affected by what she said.
Assistant District Attorney Deborah Cooper Nixon saw something else in Collins' demeanor.
"He hasn't learned," she told Means. "He was sitting here smiling a little while ago."
She said it was Collins who "was closest" to the Wright car that day, and who had "looked LaRhonda in the eye." Collins "could have called [the shooting] off," Nixon said. "Yet, he fired."
Collins' attorney, Michael Giampietro, told the judge:
"Mr. Collins still maintains he was not involved in this matter."
He added that Collins has expressed "he was very sorry [about] what happened to this little boy."
As Collins was sentenced, his mother cried in court.
Giampietro said afterward that he plans to appeal.
At a sentencing hearing in April, Means had also sentenced Rollins and Powell to the maximum term of 62 1/2 to 125 years in state prison. *