USC shooting victim Geno Hall (file photo)
A 21-year-old man was sentenced April 18, to 40 years to life in prison for a shooting that wounded four people outside a Halloween party on the USC campus in 2012. Brandon Spencer was convicted in February of four counts of attempted murder. Prosecutors said the shooting was the result of a longstanding feud between Spencer and a rival gang member. The defense, however, maintained it was a case of mistaken identity.
In court, Spencer pleaded for leniency, insisting he was not just a “gang-banger” and asking that he be given a second chance at life. He reacted angrily when Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Edmund Clarke Jr. pronounced sentence, prompting a sheriff’s deputy move behind him and grab his shirt to prevent any further outbursts. Spencer also lashed out when he was convicted in February, shouting expletives in the courtroom and struggling with deputies who pinned him to the ground and handcuffed him.
Deputy District Attorney Antonella Nistorescu told jurors during the trial that Spencer was a “documented, well-known” gang member who had been shot in the stomach in August 2011 by an unidentified rival gang member. She said Spencer was seeking vengeance when he fired at reputed gang member Geno Hall outside the party at USC. Hall, a former Crenshaw High School football standout, testified that he had just been talking to his girlfriend when he was shot and didn’t know who did it or why.
“Gang members don’t snitch, they don’t talk to the police … even rivals,” Nistorescu told the jury.
Three other witnesses testified that it was Spencer who shot Hall and three others: Mysson Downs, Thomas Richie and Davonte Smith. The prosecution used tweets that had been sent on Spencer’s phone as evidence of his gang links, while defense attorney John Blanchard countered that “the younger generation likes to trash talk.” The prosecutor pointed to the fact that Spencer pulled off his shirt in the wake of the shooting as evidence of his guilt. But Blanchard said his client pulled off his red shirt to avoid sporting gang colors.
“When he heard gunshots, deja vu, nightmare relived, he’s going to run,” Blanchard said.
The shirt was tied to Spencer via DNA, but there were no fingerprints on the gun found by police and DNA evidence was inconclusive. The gunfire broke out near a party sponsored by the Black Student Assembly and attended by about 400 people. Neither Spencer nor any of the four victims were USC students .Blanchard said he planned to appeal his client’s conviction, citing what he said were contradicting statements by the three eyewitnesses.
Blanchard told jurors during his closing argument, “When you consider all the evidence, the huge inconsistencies and holes … it’s called reasonable doubt, ladies and gentlemen.” However, Nistorescu countered that the three agreed that Spencer was the shooter, telling jurors they should expect disagreements on smaller details of the shooting.