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Man gets 15 years in slaying

April 28, 2006|by PEPPER BALLARD

HAGERSTOWN

A Ranson, W.Va., man convicted of voluntary manslaughter in the April 2005 shooting death of Terrance "T.J." Johnson in Hagerstown was sentenced Thursday to 15 years in prison by a Washington County Circuit judge.

Boni Facio Aramburo, 21, was found guilty Dec. 7, 2005, by a Circuit Court jury of voluntary manslaughter, first-degree assault and a series of other charges, including use of a handgun in a crime of violence.

On Thursday, Aramburo leaned into a microphone on the defense table and apologized to the court and to Johnson's family.

"They might not believe that I'm sorry, but that's something I have to live with for the rest of my life," Aramburo said. "His family will have to live without him. I couldn't imagine my mother living without me for the rest of her life."

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Circuit Judge Donald E. Beachley ordered Aramburo to serve eight years in prison for voluntary manslaughter and a consecutive 15 years - eight of which he suspended - for use of a handgun in the commission of a crime of violence.

The first-degree assault conviction was merged with the voluntary manslaughter conviction for sentencing.

Johnson, 35, was shot once in the heart April 5, 2005, after he jumped into a fistfight between Aramburo and Ernest Davis, aka "Poncho," shortly before 8 p.m. in Court 4 of Noland Village, a Hagerstown housing complex in the south end of town.

Beachley denied a motion for a new trial made Thursday by Aramburo's attorney, Stephen H. Sacks, who argued in February that a crack cocaine possession charge should not been tried with the assault charges, including second-degree murder. Sacks made the same motion to sever the charges before trial, but it was denied by Circuit Judge W. Kennedy Boone III.

Beachley said Thursday that the charges "should have been severed for the trial," but, citing case law, he said the fact that a crack cocaine possession charge was brought into the trial "did not prejudice the jury's verdict" because Aramburo said in his statement to police that he fled from the scene because he "had something in his pocket" that didn't need to be there, and in his testimony elaborated and said he had crack cocaine in his pocket.

Washington County Assistant State's Attorney Mark K. Boyer argued for a "substantial sentence, higher than sentencing guidelines," which suggested a sentence of five to 10 years.

"The defendant is a dangerous individual. He needs to be put away, kept away from society," he said.

He asked Beachley to send a message to the community that gun violence will not be tolerated.

Beachley, after dismissing a reference to gang-like activity in Boyer's argument, acknowledged that use of a handgun in the commission of a crime of violence "should be treated seriously."

"There's no reason in any circumstance to be packing a weapon. When a gun is available, bad things can happen," he said.

Boyer said Aramburo did not need to escalate the fistfight to gunfire, saying that if he found the gun on the ground in the middle of the fight, "he's in control of the situation" and could have fired the gun in the air or gotten away.

Boyer said, "He immediately pointed it at T.J. and killed him."

Sacks argued that the jury found "some justification, excuse or mitigation" for Aramburo to fire the gun or they would have found him guilty of second-degree murder. He asked that Aramburo be sentenced accordingly.

If the gun was loaded and Aramburo had the intention of killing Johnson, he could have shot him more than once, Sacks argued.

He said that Aramburo had no prior criminal record. Aramburo's mother, Carmen Gonzalez, testified that her son never caused her problems.

Johnson's nephew, Kirk Johnson, and Johnson's cousin, Antoine Lyers, both addressed Beachley, saying that Terrance Johnson was loved by his family and was about to begin a government job.

"He was snatched away from us like a piece of candy," Kirk Johnson, 14, said.

After the hearing, Gonzalez said, "My son should not be in jail. He was defending himself."

Johnson's mother, Cynthia Turner, said Aramburo needs to be in prison.

"I believe that he needed more time, too," she said.

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