One of two men accused of shooting at five Duquesne University basketball players after a school dance last year pleaded guilty and was sentenced to seven to 14 years in prison.
Derek Scott Lee, 19, of Pittsburgh, pleaded guilty to five counts each of attempted homicide and aggravated assault, plus one count of conspiracy and a weapons count.
Lee fired two shots, but neither hit the players, an Allegheny County prosecutor said at Tuesday’s hearing.
Lee’s attorney, Wendy Williams, said he has not agreed to cooperate with authorities, but pleaded guilty because he had faced more than 100 years in jail if convicted at trial.
“He takes responsibility for his actions and he’s not trying to take anyone else down,” she said.
Lee and co-defendant William Holmes, 19, of Pittsburgh, had gone to the Sept. 17, 2006, dance with two women, Assistant District Attorney Lisa Pellegrini said. One of the women flirted with some basketball players, leading to an argument between Lee and Holmes’ group and the players, she said.
The other woman, Erica R. Sager, yelled “get them, get them,” and Lee and Holmes opened fire, Pellegrini said.
Williams said both groups exchanged “fighting words,” that one player threw a shoe and that another player took off his shirt. But she agreed with Judge Lawrence J. O’Toole that didn’t justify the shootings.
Lee declined to address the court before being sentenced. He was “not emotionally able to,” Williams said.
After the sentencing, Williams suggested a planned self-defense strategy was too risky.
She said Lee had the 9 mm handgun for self-protection because he had previously been shot at.
He only shot after hearing other shots fired, she said. “He felt threatened when he heard gun shots,” she said.
None of the five players Sam Ashaolu, Shawn James, Kojo Mensah, Aaron Jackson and Stuard Baldonado was in court for Lee’s plea.
Duquesne athletic director Greg Amodio declined to comment and said the school would “let the legal proceedings come to conclusion before we formally comment.”
Jury selection is expected begin later this week for Holmes and the two women.
Sager, 19, of Wilkinsburg, is accused of encouraging the shooters. Brittany Jones, 20, of Penn Hills, is accused of helping six men, including Lee and Holmes, get into the dance even though she knew some of them were armed.
James was shot in the foot, Mensah in the arm and Jackson in the wrist. All three have recovered and are expected to start this season.
Ashaolu, who still has bullet fragments in his head, is back in school and expects to play next season.
Baldonado, shot in the left arm and back, is suspended and unlikely to return to Duquesne following several arrests this year.
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