A man convicted of attempted murder for opening fire on a rival gang member on the USC campus, injuring four, sobbed uncontrollably in court Friday after he was sentenced to 40 years to life in prison.
At one point, sheriff's deputies had to restrain Brandon Spencer as he banged his head on the defense table. He was convicted in February of four counts of attempted murder for the 2012 shooting, the first at the campus in decades.
While prosecutors argued that Spencer should serve his four terms consecutively, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Edmund W. Clarke Jr. ordered Spencer to serve his sentences concurrently, which means he will eventually be eligible for parole.
Through tears, Spencer, 21, asked Clarke to give him a second chance at life.
“I’m sorry for what happened but I can’t spend the rest of my life in prison,” Spencer said. “I’m not just some gang-banger that they portrayed me as.”
Prosecutors said Spencer opened fire on a rival gang member as retribution for a shooting that had left Spencer wounded a year earlier.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Antonella Nistorescu said Spencer arrived at a crowded Halloween party on the USC campus, identified a member of a Crips-affiliated gang, left and returned with a gun. Spencer shot at Geno Hall, 22, and continued firing as Hall fled and the crowd scattered, Nistorescu said. Hall and three others were wounded by the gunfire.
In asking for consecutive sentences, Nistorescu said in court Friday that Spencer showed no regard for the crowd of people while targeting Hall.
“The fact that no one died here is luck,” Nistorescu told the judge.
Defense attorney John Blanchard asked Clarke to consider Hall’s role in aggravating the incident. He added that Spencer was employed, working on attending college and had no criminal record.
Nearly 50 family members and friends packed the courtroom. Many of them had written letters to the judge before the sentencing vouching for Spencer’s character and asking for leniency.
“I love all y’all!” Spencer yelled to the gallery when the hearing ended.
Clarke said he disagreed with imposing consecutive sentences because it would have been equivalent to the punishment for killing all four victims.
Clarke denounced gang violence and acknowledged that the location of the shooting was a factor in his decision. Two USC graduate students were murdered just outside the campus six months before, and the campus "had not yet healed its wounds," Clarke said.
Though Spencer appeared to be a good man, Clarke said, “the ultimate act of selfishness can be so achieved by squeezing the trigger of a gun.”
Blanchard filed an appeal with the court.
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