Judge: Derrell Bennett “Fortunate” to Get 17-Year Sentence

Judge Ronna Beck sentenced Derrell Bennett Friday to 17 years in prison in connection with the 2010 shooting death of 29-year-old Keith Banks.

After reading the sentencing terms, which were negotiated and agreed to by prosecutors and Bennett’s defense counsel, Judge Beck said that Bennett was “fortunate” in agreeing to a plea deal. The acts that Bennett admitted to, Beck said, constitutes first-degree murder, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years in prison.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary Wheeler said Friday that the government agreed to the plea because a key witness in the case had recently been involved in illegal activity that would “tarnish his credibility” with a jury, making it a little more difficult to try Bennett on a charge of first-degree murder.

Knowing what happened and proving what happened are two different things,” Wheeler said.

Bennett, 25, pleaded guilty earlier this month to second-degree murder in connection with Banks’ death. It was the second time that Bennett had pled guilty in the case.

According to plea documents, a few days before Banks’ murder, Bennett sent him text messages demanding payment for drugs he fronted Banks in the fall of 2010.

On the day of the murder—Nov. 12, 2010—Reginald Vance was driving Bennett and Banks around Northeast D.C. when Bennett asked Vance to pull over in the 1100 block of Galloway Street so he could urinate. After Vance stopped the vehicle, Bennett pulled out a gun and ordered Banks out of the car, documents say.

Banks fled the vehicle and tried to run through a nearby park, but Bennett chased him firing several shots until Banks collapsed. Plea documents say Bennett then returned to the vehicle and ordered Vance to drive away.

Banks was found lying on the ground in Fort Circle Park suffering from multiple gunshot wounds; he later died at the hospital.

Vance pled guilty to being an accessory after the fact in April 2012; he was sentenced to three years in prison for his involvement in Banks’ death.

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