James Brown Pleads Guilty to Assault with a Deadly Weapon in Death of Darnell Rivers

James Brown, 23, pleaded guilty Monday to one count of assault with a deadly weapon and one count of carrying a rifle in connection with the shooting death of Darnell Rivers.

In exchange for his plea, Brown will be sentenced to 2 to 3 years in prison. He was originally charged with first-degree premeditated murder, can be punished by life in prison.

As a condition of his plea, James Brown’s brother Tony Brown also pleaded guilty to one count of contempt and one count of escape in a separate case. Documents say that both men had to plead guilty or neither would receive the deal.

On December 29, 2012, Rivers was found dead by police with multiple gunshot wounds in the driver’s seat of a crashed car at the 5000 block of Ayers Place Southeast.

According to arrest documents, James Brown’s brother, Tony Brown, was kidnapped by Rivers and another man, Javon Hale, who forced him at gunpoint into the back seat. Rivers and Hale demanded money, but Tony Brown shot both Rivers and Hale with his own gun while the car was moving.

Witnesses told police that after the car crashed into a tree, they saw James Brown approach and fire several shots into the driver’s side of the car, court documents state.

The brothers then got a ride to the hospital from a witness, who told police that James Brown came out with an assault rifle, according to arrest documents.

Assistant US Attorney Michelle Bradford told the court that if the case had gone to trial, the prosecution would have proven that James Brown went to the car with the gun and shot Rivers in the face and body.

James Brown’s defense attorney Eugene Ohm described Brown’s progress in prison, his familial ties to the community, and his relationship with mother of his child, adding, “He has a moral viewpoint that he should take care of this child.”

It sounds like you have been doing a lot of soul searching,” Judge Robert Morin told James Brown, referencing his 15 months in prison, “But I think you are in the safest place for you and for the community. At least until your sentencing.”

Sentencing is scheduled for 11:00 a.m. on July 18.

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