The anguish of LaSean Gause’s family could only be expressed out loud Monday by a prosecutor.
But it could plainly be seen in the courtroom gallery through Gause’s mother, Aisha Persha, as prosecutor Amy Burock read the mother’s words at the sentencing of one of Gause’s accused killers, Myliek Lebron.
“LaSean was a very smart, loving and supportive son and brother,” the mother wrote in words read by Burock. “My son had a smile on his face all the time. No one in this courtroom can understand how hard it is to have to just accept that he is not with us anymore.”
A Schenectady County Court jury in May took less than three hours to convict Lebron in the June 29, 2015, shooting death of the 19-year-old Gause on Albany Street in Schenectady.
Prosecutors argued that Lebron and another person opened fire into a crowd of people that night intending to settle a score over a fight days earlier that left Lebron with a scratch on his leg.
Gause had nothing to do with the fight.
On Monday, Lebron learned his fate: Judge Matthew Sypniewski imposed the maximum possible sentence in the case, 25 years to life in state prison.
Sypniewski called the proof at trial “absolutely overwhelming” and found no mitigating circumstances that would warrant anything less than the maximum.
Murder and other charges against a second man accused of opening fire that night, 17-year-old Kashief James, remain pending. His trial is scheduled to begin next month.
In her own comments to the court, Burock cited the senselessness of the act.
“To say that it’s an inappropriate response to what happened to [Lebron] is a huge understatement,” Burock said. “It’s a completely unacceptable, ridiculous way to deal with what happened to him, and now LaSean is dead. He’s been ripped from his family.”
The evening of the shooting, Lebron’s friends mocked him over the fight, prosecutors argued. Lebron and another man, Joshua Sayles, started driving around looking for those involved in the fight. James allegedly soon joined them. Sayles earlier pleaded guilty to a weapons charge.
They eventually drove past Zaid Food Market on Albany Street, where Lebron indicated he recognized someone outside. Lebron and another man returned to Albany Street on foot, where they opened fire.
The prosecution offered at trial street surveillance footage of the fight and time surrounding the shooting, and even a letter Lebron wrote to Gause’s mother from jail. The letter started off as an apology and ended with blaming Gause’s death on the response of medical personnel.
Lebron attorney Mark Gaylord cited his client’s age and limited criminal history in asking for a lesser sentence. He also cited the letter to Gause’s mother as Lebron apologizing “to some extent.”
Sypniewski later questioned Gaylord bringing up the letter, finding the full text of the letter to be more of an aggravating circumstance than anything else.
If there remained any doubt about Lebron’s feelings about his conviction, he removed it with his own statement.
He apologized to Gause’s family for their loss, but added, “I really didn’t do anything to cause his death. I knew LaSean personally and I would never do anything to kill him or do any harm to him.”
Both Gause’s mother and teenage brother offered statements to the court, read by Burock. His brother, Khaliq Woodson, told of Gause becoming a father figure after his father passed.
He called his brother smart and well-educated, and said “this has changed everything” in the family’s lives.
The mother concluded her statement by saying she doesn’t think there is enough time to make up for taking her son from her.
Burock told the court that Gause’s mother felt she couldn’t give the statement in court without becoming overcome by emotion, asking Burock to read it in her place.
“This loss is a bleeding, open wound to them,” Burock said later of the family. “His mother can’t get through a conversation without crying. As Khaliq said in his statement, it will never be the same. It colors every experience that they have now and it will forever.”