Taneak Turner sentenced to 25 1/2 years
There were tears on both side of the courtroom Tuesday as a judge sentenced 21-year-old Taneak Turner to 25 1/2 years in prison for a 2014 stabbing and shooting at the Al Hamraa restaurant.
In January, Turner was convicted of voluntary manslaughter, three counts of attempted malicious wounding and firing a gun into an occupied vehicle for his role in the stabbing death of Antonio Washington.
Another man, Antwan Roberts, pleaded guilty last summer to voluntary manslaughter and being an accessory after the fact in exchange for his testimony against Turner. Roberts was also sentenced on Tuesday with a judge ordering him to serve three years and four months.
Outside the restaurant the night of the stabbing, Turner was convicted of firing multiple shots at a car.
While prosecutors have long described the events of that night as "senseless violence," Turner's attorneys had painted their client as a troubled youth who suffered from substance abuse issues and post traumatic stress disorder triggered by his being accidentally shot by a peer at age five.
A jury had recommended Turner receive 25 years for all the charges.
During Tuesday's hearing, he was also arraigned and immediately convicted on another charge stemming from that night: possession of a firearm as a nonviolent felon. That charge arose from Turner's juvenile criminal record. Turner pleaded not guilty but had agreed to the swift bench trial.
Charlottesville Circuit Court Judge Rick Moore then added six months to the jury's recommended sentence.
Outside the courtroom, Turner's grandmother, Deirdre Gilmore, said she wasn't surprised by the length of the sentence Turner received.
"This seems to be the norm for our community," she said. "It's been a lot of tragedy, and the time that they're giving out, not to minimize people's suffering, but it's excessive time."
In court, Turner apologized to Washington's family and said he couldn't imagine serving such a long sentence, four years more than he's been alive.
After the sentencing, Turner's attorneys declined to comment, but prosecutors described the case as tragic and a senseless loss for the families of both Turner and Washington.
"We hope in some small part for the community and for the families, that today's verdict brings some closure and some healing," said Areshini Pather, assistant commonwealth's attorney. "I think the court and the jury observed that violence like this has no place in our community."
Gilmore agrees that violence needs to stop, and she said she hopes to see more support for families seeking help with a child suffering from substance abuse issues. She said she struggled to get Turner help and couldn't find it.
"Taneak isn't a bad person," she said. "He just got caught up in the streets."
Turner began using drugs at age nine, his attorneys earlier told the judge. On the night he stabbed Washington, he had a large quantity of alcohol and had used cocaine.
"He became an addict at a very young age," said Gilmore. "If you don't get rehabilitated, and you don't get the help you need, this is what ends up happening."
She expressed her sorrow for Washington's family as well.
"My grandson is gone for 25 years. Antonio Washington, they can never touch him again, so we both have lost things," she said, adding that she hopes the tragedy will prompt change in the community. "We can't keep doing business as usual. We have to do something different."