Gunman could serve up to 40 years in prison after guilty plea

Updated: October 26, 2007, 2:59 PM ET
Associated Press

PITTSBURGH -- The gunman who wounded five Duquesne University basketball players after a school dance last year pleaded guilty Friday and will spend up to 40 years in prison.

William B. Holmes III, 19, of Pittsburgh, shot players Sam Ashaolu, Shawn James, Kojo Mensah, Aaron Jackson and Stuard Baldonado on campus on Sept. 17, 2006.

Holmes and some male friends had gone to the dance with two women. One woman flirted with some basketball players, leading to an argument after which Holmes and another man, Derek Scott Lee, 19, of Pittsburgh, opened fire.

Holmes was sentenced to 18 to 40 years in prison after pleading guilty to attempted homicide and aggravated assault charges. Lee was sentenced to seven to 14 years after pleading guilty to the same charges Tuesday.

Lee received the lesser sentence because Allegheny County prosecutors determined that he fired two shots, neither of which hit anybody.

"None of the bullets that were surgically removed from the basketball players were identified as being fired from Derek Lee," assistant district attorney Mark Tranquilli told reporters after Holmes' guilty plea. "All of the bullets that were fired, that were removed, that hit these basketball players were from Mr. Holmes and that's why Mr. Holmes' sentence was essentially double Mr. Lee's."

The wounded players, some teammates and coach Ron Everhart were in court but did not immediately comment.

Holmes did not comment, but defense attorney James Sheets said his client faced more than 200 years in prison if he were convicted at trial.

"Based on the evidence that they had and rather risk him doing far more than 18 to 40, we accepted the plea," Sheets said.

Holmes' father, William Holmes Jr., said his son was remorseful for the shooting.

"Before I even knew my son's involvement, I was really watching it on the news and once I found out my son was involved, it was a devastating thing," he said. "I'm very, very sorry for all the incidents that have happened."

Tranquilli said the players were consulted and agreed with the plea agreement.

"I think these young men that were shot, that had their basketball careers in some cases cut short, their studies interrupted, they showed incredible maturity and courage in their willingness to allow this resolution," Tranquilli said.

James was shot in the foot, Mensah in the arm and Jackson in the wrist. All three have recovered and are expected to start this season.

Ashaolu, who still has bullet fragments in his head, is back in school and expects to play next season.

Baldonado, shot in the left arm and back, is suspended and unlikely to return to Duquesne following several arrests this year. Baldonado sued Duquesne University in April, alleging it failed to provide adequate security at the dance.

A Duquesne spokesman declined to comment Friday.

Two women are accused of contributing to the shooting. Erica R. Sager, of Wilkinsburg, attended the dance with Holmes and Lee. She was charged with criminal solicitation and aggravated assault.

Sager's attorney, James Wymard, did not return calls for comment.

Brittany Jones, of Penn Hills, was a Duquesne student and a member of the group that sponsored the dance. She is accused of helping Lee, Holmes and four other men get into the dance by asking a doorman if her friends would be frisked. She is charged with conspiracy to help someone carry a firearm without a license and conspiracy to commit reckless endangerment.

Jones' attorney, James Ecker, told The Associated Press he is trying to work out a plea in the case.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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