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Rayshawn L. Bethany was sentenced Monday to 21 years to life in prison for the fatal drive-by shooting of Vernon Hardy Jr. two years ago on Buffalo’s West Side.

Erie County Judge Michael L. D’Amico imposed the sentence on Bethany, 29, who was convicted by a jury last month of second-degree murder. The Buffalo man could have faced the maximum of 25 years to life in prison.

Buffalo police encountered a wall of silence in investigating the slaying of Hardy, 24, who was shot eight times by masked assailants firing from a van, according to Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III.

The attack occurred at 5:15 p.m. May 22, 2012, as Hardy and Eullanda Reed, 17, walked on 18th Street near Massachusetts Avenue.

Reed, who was treated for a gunshot to her arm and recovered, refused to cooperate with police.

Hardy had been released from prison a month before his killing after serving time for attempted robbery. He had been released twice before on parole but returned to prison because of violations.

An investigation by Detectives Salvatore A. Valvo and James A. Lema determined that Bethany drove the van. He refused to cooperate with authorities and was arrested and later indicted, prosecutors said.

At sentencing, Assistant District Attorney James F. Bargnesi, chief of the Homicide Bureau, told the judge that although Bethany continues to contend he is innocent, his actions led to Hardy’s death.

Bethany’s attorney, John K. Jordan, said his client did not pull the trigger.

“Unfortunately, the killers are still out on the street,” he said. “We know who they are,” but there was not enough evidence to charge them.

The attorney said Bethany has a history of marijuana possession but no history of violence. He requested the minimum prison sentence of 15 years to life.

Bethany asked the judge to postpone the sentencing so he could hire a new attorney to file a motion to set aside the verdict, alleging misconduct by the prosecution, his attorney, the police and the judge in the case.

“I didn’t pull the trigger,” he said. “I didn’t know the man,” he added, referring to the victim.

Bethany accused authorities of botching the investigation after he said he gave them information about the shooting.

D’Amico denied Bethany’s motion to set aside the verdict and told him that he could raise on appeal the issues he outlined at sentencing.

Before sentencing, Vernon Hardy Sr., the victim’s father, thanked police, prosecutors and the judge for what he called a job well done.

email: jstaas@buffnews.com