After his attorney's emotional appeal for mercy, Lance Jerome Parker--the last criminal defendant in the Reginald O. Denny beating case--was sentenced Friday to three years probation.
"Things worked out really well," Parker said after the sentencing, tears welling up in his eyes. "It was just."
Parker, 28, was acquitted in May of two of five charges against him and the jury deadlocked on a third. But jurors convicted him of one felony count of firing a shotgun into an unoccupied vehicle--Denny's truck--and found him guilty of a misdemeanor vandalism charge.
The prosecution contended that Parker rode a motorcycle into the intersection of Florence and Normandie avenues--a flash point of the Los Angeles riots--a short time after the violence erupted there April 29, 1992. The riots had started after not-guilty verdicts were reached on four Los Angeles police officers in a state trial that stemmed from the beating of black motorist Rodney G. King.
Prosecutors said Denny--a white truck driver who had been pulled from the cab of his truck and severely beaten by black assailants--was lying semiconscious near his gravel truck when Parker rode up, brandished the shotgun and fired a blast into the fuel tank of Denny's vehicle.
According to the district attorney's office, Parker left, then returned about 45 minutes later and fired several more shots at the gas pumps of a nearby service station.
Had he been convicted of all five counts against him, Parker would have faced a maximum sentence of almost 10 years in prison. And even though the jury convicted him May 2 of just two of the charges, he still faced a maximum term of 3 1/2 years.
Arguing that Parker had introduced a "loaded, sawed-off, pistol-grip shotgun" into "an already serious situation," Deputy Dist. Atty. Kevin McCormick said Friday that "it is important that there be a level of responsibility for one's conduct."
Parker's attorney, La Chelle Woodert, acknowledged that responsibility, but she argued that the crimes for which Parker was convicted "did not happen in a vacuum."
Woodert said the violence that burst forth on April 29 "was the result of a lack of hope, a lack of faith in the justice system."
Describing her 6-foot, 4-inch, 310-pound client as a "gentle giant," she said that when when she first saw him in a jail cell, "he looked like a little boy lost. . . .
"Mr. Parker is a valuable member of the community, not a violent individual who should be locked up," Woodert said, her voice breaking and her eyes sparkling with tears.
"I'm not crying because I want you to be lenient," the defense attorney told Superior Court Judge Florence-Marie Cooper. "I'm crying because I know this man."
In announcing the sentence, which includes time already served in County Jail, 100 hours of community service and restitution to be calculated later, Cooper said she was "not unmindful of the seriousness of this crime . . . or the circumstances under which the crime occurred."
Parker was asked why he was crying after sentence was passed.
"We had to go back over two years of pain," he said. "I'm just glad everything is over with. Now I can go back to work, to church, to plan my life."