By Marty Roney, Montgomery Advertiser
A teenager tried as an adult under Alabama's accomplice liability law was sentenced to 65 years in prison Thursday after rejecting an earlier plea deal that recommended 25 years.
In a two-day trial in March, Lakeith Smith, now 18, of Montgomery was convicted of felony murder, burglary and theft for helping in the 2015 break-ins of two homes in Millbrook, about 10 miles north of Montgomery. He did not kill A'Donte Washington, 16, of Montgomery, who was part of a group of five accused in the thefts.
But several in the group, including Washington, fired shots at Millbrook police officers who responded Feb. 23, 2015, to a call of a burglary in progress, according to officer body-camera footage. The officer that Washington ran toward pointing a .38 caliber revolver fired his police-issued sidearm four times, killing Washington.
Smith was accused of being criminally responsible for the acts that led to Washington's death, the gist of Alabama's accomplice law. An Elmore County grand jury cleared the officer who fired the fatal shots; the officer's name was not released.
On Thursday, Judge Sibley Reynolds of Alabama's 19th Judicial Circuit Court handed down three sentences that Smith will serve back to back: 30 years for murder, 15 years for burglary and 10 years each for two theft convictions.
Smith smiled and laughed through the sentencing, said C.J. Robinson, chief assistant district attorney. Smith flashed a broad smile March 14 as he was led out of the courtroom shortly after the verdicts were announced.
“I don’t think Mr. Smith will be smiling long when he gets to prison,” Robinson said. “We are very pleased with this sentence. Because the sentences are consecutive, it will be a long time before he comes up for even the possibility for parole, at least 20 to 25 years.”
Alabama's accomplice law states that a person is legally liable for the behavior of another who commits a criminal offense if that person aids or abets the first person in committing the offense. It wasn't immediately known how many states have similar statutes.
"The officer shot A'donte, not Lakeith Smith," Smith's lawyer, Jennifer Holton, said during the trial. "Lakeith was a 15-year-old child, scared to death. He did not participate in the act that caused the death of A'donte. He never shot anybody."
Other surviving defendants charged in the case — Montgomery residents Jadarien Hardy, 22; Jhavarske Jackson, 23; and La’Anthony Washington, 22 — entered guilty pleas to charges of felony murder, burglary and theft, court records show. They are awaiting sentencing.
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