An attack on a 66-year-old man who tried to break up a fight between two Bennett High School girls last May in Shoshone Park in North Buffalo led to jail time Tuesday for three of the nine Buffalo teenagers who pleaded guilty in the beating.
Damari Phillips, 17, was given the most jail time – weekends at the Erie County Correctional Facility for three months followed by five years’ probation.
Erie County Judge Thomas P. Franczyk decried the group mentality that took over in the park that day as more than 100 Bennett High School students gathered at about 3:30 p.m. to watch a prearranged fight between the two girls.
“Nobody in the crowd acted to break it up,” he said.
But James C. LeGrand, a longtime employee of the Mayor’s Impact Team who was in the park, stepped in.
“Mr. LeGrand tried to stop it,” the judge said. “He had a camera and made it clear that if the fight didn’t stop, he was going to turn over his information” to the Bennett High School principal.
At that point, some of the teenagers, fearing they would get in trouble if the principal found out, attacked LeGrand, knocking him to the ground and punching and kicking him repeatedly as he tried to cover himself from their blows. “You were more deeply involved than the others,” the judge told Phillips. “So there needs to be some punishment.”
The judge ordered Phillips to start serving his weekends in jail this Friday to Sunday and continue through April 11 to 13. He told him to write a letter of apology to LeGrand – something his attorney said he has already done – and perform 100 hours of community service while on probation. The judge also granted him youthful-offender status, sealing his criminal record.
During the 45-second beating, LeGrand suffered a black eye and facial bruises, as well as neck and back pain that continues, prosecutors said.
Phillips, like the other defendants, had pleaded guilty to second-degree assault, a felony that could mean up to seven years in prison.
Assistant District Attorney Paul C. Parisi told the judge that Phillips was one of the most culpable suspects in the May 16 attack, stomping the victim’s head and neck several times as the victim lay on the ground.
Phillips told the judge that he was very sorry for his actions and had written a letter of apology to LeGrand, which he had in his pocket, but he said he didn’t kick the victim.
The judge said he had seen a photo from the video that Parisi said showed Phillips’ foot on the victim’s body.
Phillips then admitted that in addition to slapping the victim, he had held him down with his foot.
Two other defendants – Homer Barney and Quashan Moore, both 17 – were sentenced to weekends in jail for a month followed by five years’ probation and 100 hours of community service. They also were told to write letters of apology and were granted youthful-offender status.
Two other defendants – Edward Magby IV, 18, and Darvin Whitely, 17 – were granted youthful-offender status and sentenced to five years’ probation and 100 hours of community service and were told to write letters of apology. The judge cited their lesser involvement in the attack.
A sixth defendant – Jaquan Woodward, 19 – will be sentenced at 2 p.m. today by Franczyk.