Kasheef James is responsible for possessing two guns and of recklessly causing the death of LaSean Gause last year, a jury found Tuesday.
The jury, however, found that he did not intend to kill anyone that night and did not act with the depraved indifference to human life mindset needed to convict him of murder or a top manslaughter count.
The Schenectady County Court jury read its verdict Tuesday morning, finding James not guilty of either theory of second-degree murder and not guilty of first-degree manslaughter related to Gause’s June 29, 2015 killing. James was 16 years old at the time.
James’ jury instead, found him guilty of other weapons charges and a second-degree manslaughter count that together could still bring a top sentence of 15 years in state prison and possibly 30, depending on legal research and arguments.
A previous jury convicted James’ co-defendant, 24-year-old Myliek Lebron, of the top murder counts and he received a 25-years-to-life sentence in August.
[Feeling loss, Hamilton Hill residents seek answers to violence]
Despite the other convictions, the James verdict Tuesday marked a decided win for James’ defense. The defense admitted many of the details, including possessing the guns and that James fired that night.
James’ defense attorney Mark Sacco, said James took the stand in his own defense, telling the jury he shot in the air as he backed away.
The defense left the question of intent for the jury to decide and the jury’s verdict showed they sided with James’ account, Sacco said.
“They determined his intent, what he went down there for that night, was not to hurt anybody,” Sacco said. “The jury punished him for firing a gun at night in a public place, there’s no question. But, in my opinion, they clearly decided that he didn’t mean to hurt anybody and he didn’t want to hurt anyone.”
Two of James' sisters, present for the verdict, declined to comment afterward. One became audibly emotional as the jury read its initial “not guilty” verdicts. She also appeared to say something as the jury foreman continued, prompting court security to ask her to step out of the courtroom.
Prosecutors argued that both James and Lebron opened fire on Albany Street late that night, intending to settle a score based on a fight days earlier in which Lebron suffered a scratch on his leg.
Gause had nothing to do with the earlier fight, prosecutors said. Gause just happened to be standing with others outside the Zaid Food Market at 807 Albany St. when the two suspects opened fire just after 11 p.m.
Gause died just days short of his 20th birthday.
Prosecutor Amy Burock has argued that the sequence of shots suggests Lebron fired the fatal shot, though she said that isn’t certain.
Sacco pointed to his client’s testimony, that James fired in the air, arguing that James conclusively did not fire the fatal shot.
Burock noted testimony from both James and others that she argued discounted that James fired upward. She noted there was also testimony concerning alleged James comments immediately after the shooting that she argued showed his intent.
Burock said she will research whether sentences for the two second-degree criminal possession of a weapons counts — the guns used by the two shooters — can possibly run consecutively.
James is to be sentenced in December. Judge Matthew Sypniewski presided.
One person remains to be tried in connection with the death of Gause, Aaron Ketchmore. Ketchmore, 24, faces lesser charges of criminal facilitation and weapons possession for alleged actions prior to the shooting. He is accused of providing the gun used by Lebron and doing so in response to Lebron’s claims of being attacked.
Another individual, 20-year-old Joshua Sayles, has previously been identified as driving the getaway car. Sayles has since pleaded guilty to a weapons charge.
Reach Gazette reporter Steven Cook at 395-3122, [email protected] or @ByStevenCook on Twitter.