A 19-year-old South Seattle gang member was convicted of three felonies Tuesday for a shooting in May that wounded JaeBrione Gary, an uncooperative victim who was forced to testify and claimed on the witness stand that another man had shot him.
A 19-year-old South Seattle gang member was convicted of three felonies Tuesday for a shooting in May that wounded a man who claimed on the witness stand that another man had shot him.
A King County Superior Court jury of six men and six women found Hailu Mandefero guilty of first- and second-degree assault and of being a felon in possession of a firearm. As part of their verdict, jurors returned firearm enhancements for each of the assault charges, which will add 8 years to whatever sentence Mandefero is given.
A sentencing date has not been set.
Mandefero looked stunned when Superior Court Judge Catherine Shaffer read aloud the verdicts. He shook his head, pressed his fingers to his eyes and started to cry. Neither of his parents, who had attended every day of their son’s trial, made it to court in time to hear the verdicts but both wept when they found out Mandefero had been found guilty. The jury began its deliberations Nov. 6 after two weeks of testimony.
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To ensure the victim, JaeBrione Gary, would testify, prosecutors had him arrested on a material-witness warrant and jailed for two weeks. Once he took the stand, Gary admitted he’d told a King County sheriff’s deputy at the scene that he had been shot by Mandefero on May 1 outside a Skyway restaurant. He also testified that he told his mother that Mandefero was the gunman when he awoke at Harborview Medical Center the day after the shooting.
However, during his testimony, Gary tried to pin the shooting on one of Mandefero’s friends. The friend was jailed in June and is awaiting his own trial for an unrelated shooting that critically injured three men in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood.
Defense attorney Aimee Sutton argued that Mandefero’s friend — who The Seattle Times is not naming because he hasn’t been charged in connection with Gary’s shooting was the only gunman that night, and first emptied a .40-caliber handgun into Gary’s car before switching to a 9 mm.
Both Mandefero and his friend are members of a clique called Money Gang. Jurors were barred from hearing additional evidence of Mandefero’s gang involvement, though a sheriff’s gang detective testified that Mandefero has the words “Money” and “Gang” tattooed on the backs of his hands.
According to testimony, Mandefero accompanied his friend to Valley Medical Center in Renton to be treated for a gunshot wound to the buttocks, where Mandefero was arrested a few hours after Gary, 20, was shot. Though Mandefero gave several different stories to police, he was told “to stick to the script” by another friend in a recorded phone conversation from jail the next day.
In her closing arguments last week, King County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Julie Kline said Gary lied on the stand about who shot him because he didn’t want to be seen as a “snitch.” She argued that Mandefero was looking to regain the respect he lost when Gary snatched a chain from his neck in front of a large group of people near Seattle Center a couple weeks before the shooting outside Ezell’s Chicken on Renton Avenue South in Skyway.
Presiding juror Bill Bowlus-Root, a 59-year-old software developer from Kirkland, said the jury didn’t believe Gary’s testimony or the defense’s single-shooter theory.
He said the case was “a sad commentary” on the gang life and called it “unconscionable” that Mandefero and his friend endangered innocent people inside Ezell’s.
Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or firstname.lastname@example.org