NEW ORLEANS — A man who was 16 when he was arrested for robbing and killing pizza delivery man in New Orleans was sentenced to 40 years in prison Tuesday after reaching a plea deal with prosecutors — and after hearing expressions of anguish from his victim’s parents.
Rendell Brown, 19, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the September 2014 death of Richard “Chris” Yeager, 35, who was shot to death after delivering a pizza. He also pleaded guilty to the robbery of Yeager, and another robbery a day earlier. Brown had originally faced a second-degree murder charge, which carries a mandatory life sentence.
Yeager’s friends and family were in the courtroom. Before Brown was sentenced, his parents read emotional victim impact statements, directed at Brown.
“The Bible tells us to forgive,” William Yeager told Brown. “But forgiveness and compassion are two concepts I have not been able to consider yet.”
“Young man, the day will come when you will have to face the God who created you,” a tearful Ann Yeager said. “I pray that he will be merciful and in the many years you spend behind bars, he will open your eyes to the truth of what you have done.”
Also watching was Brown’s co-defendant, Shane Hughes, who also was 16 at the time of the slaying. He faces a second-degree murder trial next month in Yeager’s death and has a pretrial appearance March 23.
Both teens were caught within days of Yeager’s shooting. Both had been in trouble as juveniles and, according to District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office, both were wearing ankle monitors that placed them in the vicinity of the killing. Brown also was accused by authorities of inciting a riot at the New Orleans jail after his arrest, and of conspiring to bring contraband drugs into the jail.
Cannizzaro has been criticized by some criminal justice advocates for his prosecution of juveniles as adults. In a statement on Brown’s guilty plea, Cannizzaro addressed his critics. “Advocates of our juvenile justice system seek to mask its ineffectiveness by labeling defendants such as these ‘children,’ rather than the very violent teen offenders that they are,” he said.