Man Who Did Not Fire A Shot Found Guilty Of First Degree Murder
Illinois has statute under 720 ILCS 5/9-1, that sets forth in pertinent part:
“A person who kills an individual without lawful justification commits first degree murder if, in performing the acts which cause the death, he is attempting or committing a forcible felony other than second degree murder.”
That means that if John plans to rob a house and takes Sam along, and the homeowner kills Sam, that John is charged with first-degree murder for Sam’s death. Only in Ogle County, Illinois, prosecutors saw it as manslaughter.
In October, I mentioned the following two cases in a blog article. To refresh our memory;
In April 2008, Cody Moore, 19; drove Nathan Whitmire, 17; Justin Doyle, 15, and Travis Castle, 14, to a home in neighboring Ogle County. Moore knew that the owner of the house was in the hospital, and drove the other guys there to rob the house of guns and money. He did not know, however, that there was a house guest. The house guest heard breaking glass and coming out of the bedroom, saw 14-yr-old Travis with a gun and fired two shots. One grazed Travis on the neck, and the other was fired into his chest, killing the 14-year-old.
Cody Moore, Nathan Whitmire and Justin Doyle were charged with home invasion and first degree murder.
Cody Moore was offered a plea deal and sentenced to 30 years for home invasion , with a concurrent sentence of 5 years for involuntary manslaughter.
In exchange for a plea of guilty to residential burglary, the State dismissed charges of felony murder and home invasion against Nathan Whitmire. He was sentenced to 12 years.
Justin Doyle was sentenced to 5 years for involuntary manslaughter, and 30 years for home invasion.
Illinois was not so gracious to Lamar Coates, Desmond Bellmon, and Brandon Sago.
In October 2011, off duty sheriff’s deputy Frank Pobjecky was in Marie’s Pizza in Rockford when Lamar Coates, Desmond Bellmon, Brandon Sago and Michael Sago Jr. entered the restaurant. Lamar Coates had a gun and tried robbing the restaurant. When Pobjecky got the owner’s gun, all four ran. All four were shot by Pobjecky. Three survived. Pobjecky shot unarmed 16-year-old Michael Sago, Jr. 3 times in the back. Michael fell to the ground and laid bleeding in the parking lot until he died.
Coates, Bellmon, and Brandon Sago were charged with felony murder for Michael’s death because police say they were committing an armed robbery at the time. Prosecutors also charged Coates with attempted murder of Pobjecky and the owner of Marie’s Pizza. A judge dismissed those charges.
Rockford Police Chief Chet Epperson said, “We’re sending out a strong message with State’s Attorney Bruscato with this case, all other future cases, your actions have consequences and if you’re going to rob in Rockford, we’re going to build a case against you and we’re going to present it to the state’s attorney.”
However, robbery is not the problematic charge. What Chief Epperson should have said was the consequences for an off-duty deputy sheriff committing first-degree murder, is to transfer those charges to the attempted robbers, even the unarmed parties — unless you are tried elsewhere in Illinois.
Lamar Coates was the first to go to trial. He was found guilty and sentenced to 40 years. Coates was the one with the gun.
Desmond Bellmon pled guilty to murder last month. As part of his plea deal, Bellmon took the stand and testified against Brandon. Bellmon’s sentence hearing is scheduled for December 27, 2013.
On December 4, 2013, trial began for Brandon Sago, who was put on trial for Michael’s murder, although he had no gun. At Brandon’s trial, prosecutors argued that Brandon is responsible for the death of his cousin Michael Sago Jr. They argued that if he, Desmond Bellmon, and Lamar Coates hadn’t’ attempted to rob Marie’s Pizza in October of 2011, that Sago wouldn’t have been shot by off-duty deputy sheriff Frank Pobjecky. Fine, but why not charge them with involuntary manslaughter as they did Cody Moore and Nathan Whitmire in Ogle County?
At Brandon’s trial, Deputy Frank Pobjecky testified, saying that after Lamar Coates pointed a gun at his face, he didn’t’ know if the other suspects had a weapon. During closing argument, the defense argued that Pobjecky never saw any of the other men pull out a gun and that he just started shooting.
I waited for the defense to argue that Deputy Pobjecky shot unarmed, 16-year-old Michael Sago, Jr. 3 times in the back, while he was on the floor. No reports say whether the defense made that point. Pobjecky did not have to shoot him in the back, but he did, and now three young men have been found guilty for Pobjecky’s cold blooded murder.
After a three (3) day trial, the jury deliberated for four (4) hours and returned a verdict finding Brandon Sago guilty of all counts; attempted armed robbery, mob action, and first-degree murder. Society sees nothing wrong with the guilty verdict for armed robbery, but it was Pobjecky who intentionally fired three bullets into the back of another human being. We just might believe that involuntary manslaughter applies since that was the charge meted out to those in Ogle County.
In the surveillance video, Pobjecky is seen pointing and firing the gun at Michael while Michael is on the floor, crawling to the door.
The disparity in the application of the law, when comparing the cases of Cody Moore, Nathan Whitmire, and Justin Doyle, to the cases of Lamar Coates, Desmond Bellmon, and Brandon Sago, speaks volumes.
I don’t want to say the disparity is because of race, but what else could be the reason for the disparity in the application of law?
Brandon’s attorneys say they will appeal.