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Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017 12:06 am

Killer gets 38 years

Fender bender ended in death

Oscar Brown
Tears flowed on both sides of the courtroom well this week as a man convicted of killing a man with Springfield roots was sent to prison more than four years after the fact.

Sangamon County Associate Judge Rudolph Braud on Monday sentenced Oscar Brown to 38 years for gunning down Charles Rice on Jan. 30, 2013.

The tragedy began when a car Brown was riding in struck Rice’s parked car at the intersection of South 19th and East Kansas streets, causing minor damage. It ended with Brown firing 19 shots, six of which struck Rice, who had been living in Minneapolis but grew up in Springfield. Another man was wounded. Neither Rice nor the wounded man were armed. The killing was accomplished with a 9 mm Glock equipped with a 30-round magazine that prosecutors said Brown had purchased off the street.

Charged with first-degree murder, Brown last year was convicted of involuntary manslaughter. He was convicted last month of being an armed habitual criminal after representing himself in a second trial.

Braud sentenced Brown to 29 years, one year short of the maximum, on the armed habitual criminal charge. Brown, 39, got nine years, one year less than the maximum, on the involuntary manslaughter conviction. Defendants typically serve sentences concurrently for convictions arising out of the same incident, but Braud sentenced Brown to consecutive sentences.

“You have not been a law-abiding citizen, that’s for sure,” Braud said as he pronounced sentence. “I think you’re one of the people we need to pay for to stay in prison.”

Brown cried during the proceedings, as did the family of his victim. Brown several times insisted that he’d done nothing wrong, at times drawing sharp rebukes from Braud.

“Due to the facts of the case, I have been mentally and emotionally affected more than I ever have in my life,” Brown said while Rice’s relatives watched, some dabbing eyes with tissues.

In a written statement read by assistant state’s attorney Brian Shaw, Lavenia Hunter, Rice’s mother, said that pain from the loss of her son is so intense that her thoughts are no longer her own. Whenever she closes her eyes, she wrote, she sees her late son, who was her firstborn child.

In order not to see him, I try not to sleep,” Hunter wrote. “Oscar Brown shot my son six times. Then he and his friends just drove away. They didn’t call the ambulance or the police. They just left him there to die.”

Then Hunter took the stand and looked Brown in the eye.

“Mr. Brown, I want you to know: I forgive you,” Hunter said as tears fell down her face.

Terrance Hunter, Rice’s younger brother, also forgave Brown from the witness stand.

“(Y)ou killed someone who would have given you the shirt off his back, and his coat,” Terrance Hunter said. “To take someone’s life over a fender bender. The only intimidated person who was out there was my brother. I forgive you for what you’ve done. And I pray for you. I really do.”

Brown refused to accept responsibility. He said that he had acted as his own lawyer so that the truth would come out. Turning to face Brown’s mother, he said “You should know the truth about your first son.” At that point, Shaw objected, calling Brown’s statement offensive to the family. Braud briefly halted the proceedings and warned Brown about making inappropriate remarks.

“If you are going to make an attempt to define for this family who and what their son was, I’m not going to allow it,” the judge said. Brown was allowed to continue. “I am not now and I was not then ever a threat to society,” he said near the end of his statement.

With time off for good behavior, Brown could be freed after slightly more than 29 years behind bars. As of Monday, he already had already spent 1,724 days in the Sangamon County jail.

Contact Bruce Rushton at brushton@illinoistimes.com.

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