Humphreys sentenced to 5 years on gun charge
A judge on Friday cast doubt on the testimony of the Duluth man who was acquitted of murder in a Lincoln Park shooting death. A jury in July found Aaron Demetrius Humphreys, 44, not guilty of killing 47-year-old Eric Wayne Burns at the front door...
A judge on Friday cast doubt on the testimony of the Duluth man who was acquitted of murder in a Lincoln Park shooting death.
A jury in July found Aaron Demetrius Humphreys, 44, not guilty of killing 47-year-old Eric Wayne Burns at the front door of the Bedrock Bar in October 2016. At trial, Humphreys took the stand in his own defense to assert that Burns was shot by another man he knew only by the name "Memphis."
Appearing for sentencing on related firearm and assault charges, Judge David Johnson told Humphreys the alleged alternative perpetrator was "never seen (and) never found."
"I don't disagree with the jury's verdict of not guilty on the murder charge," Johnson told the defendant, "but that doesn't mean Memphis shot Mr. Burns."
Johnson denied Humphreys' request for probation in the case, sentencing him to a guideline term of five years in prison for illegally possessing a firearm.
Prosecutors introduced into evidence a photo of Humphreys holding a handgun, and he admitted to holding the weapon, which he said he took from his friend Orin Bernard Vann, who was "acting crazy."
The jury also convicted him of misdemeanor fifth-degree assault for his role in a barroom fight, in which he was seen knocking Burns down and kicking him approximately seven times after Burns became involved in a verbal argument with Vann.
Surveillance video showed Burns returning to the bar minutes later, with prosecutors contending that Humphreys was clearly seen shooting him without justification. But the defense argued that the video was less conclusive and that Burns was shot from outside the bar by Memphis.
In acquitting Humphreys, jurors were not required to conclude that the shooting was actually committed by an alternative perpetrator but simply find "reasonable doubt" that Humphreys shot Burns with an intent to kill.
Defense attorney Kassius Benson urged the judge Friday to accept a probation officer's recommendation to grant probation in lieu of a prison term. He noted Humphreys has already spent nearly two years in jail with two mistrials slowing court proceedings.
Benson said his client worked full-time as a Duluth Transit Authority bus driver before his arrest and had the support of family members, including a son, his mother and ex-wife. He also submitted a letter of support from Scanlon City Councilor James Pratt, who is currently running to be that city's mayor.
Humphreys himself spoke, pleading for a chance to be released from custody.
"Your honor, on this evening I did possess a firearm," he said. "My actions had no ill-intent. There was no threat in my possession of the firearm. I really just want to get back to my family. ... I know I can do a good job if you allow me an opportunity on probation."
Assistant St. Louis County Attorney Nate Stumme pushed for the five-year prison term.
"The state does not dispute his employment history or his love of family," the prosecutor said. "But those factors were in place at the time of this offense. His employment, his love for his family did not prevent him from committing this crime. It did not prevent him from illegally possessing a firearm. It did not prevent him from committing a brutal assault of Mr. Burns."
Johnson said he disagreed "100 percent" with the probation recommendation. He noted the agent who completed the presentence investigation likely had not had an opportunity to view the surveillance video from the bar.
"I watched you brutally stomp Mr. Burns and then claim in here that it was self-defense," Johnson said. "This is not a case where you were just caught with a gun. There was a murder that night."
Humphreys must serve at least two-thirds of the sentence before he is eligible for supervised release. With credit for nearly two years already served, he could be released from prison in February 2020.