Defendant’s mom: Unfair on conviction
Roderick Washington is a 19-year-old who once played football and basketball, ran on the school track team and held a steady job at a Cape Coral McDonald’s. He enjoyed dancing.
Family members hoped Washington would one day inherit the family business, a mobile barbecue restaurant.
But a night at Kemar Johnston’s birthday party in 2006 changed the then 16-year-old’s life forever — a night that ended in the brutal murders of Alexis Sosa, 18, and Jeffrey Sosa, 14.
Washington was found guilty as a principal in the slayings, first of two counts of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon in May, then of two counts each of first-degree murder and kidnapping in a retrial last week.
Washington and nine others are accused in the killings, several of whom are allegedly members of a rap group called the “Cash Feenz.”
According to his mother, Lashun Washington, her son was not a part of the Cash Feenz.
“What hurt me the most is how they were trying to label him as a Cash Feenz,” she said Monday, following her son’s sentencing.
Lashun has been Washington’s mother since his biological mother died when he was 2 years old. She is married to his father, Rickey Washington.
A 12-person jury decided Washington held Jeffrey and Alexis Sosa at gunpoint in Johnston’s home as they were tied, beaten, carved and covered in bleach, and helped load them into the trunk of a car used to transport them to a north Cape Coral industrial site where they were shot to death.
He was sentenced Monday to serve four consecutive life sentences, which will be added to the 30 years he is already serving from his conviction in May.
Lashun said her son’s life was taken for a crime he did not commit, and murders he had no idea would take place as a result of his actions.
She feels that because Washington chose to go to trial, he was punished.
“You shouldn’t take away his life when you know he wasn’t the one who killed them,” she said.
Lashun said that after the first trial, state attorneys offered Washington 10 years in addition to his 30-year sentence in exchange for his testimony against co-defendants, but Washington refused.
State Attorney’s Office spokesperson Samantha Syoen said no information was available Monday evening regarding a proposed agreement between the state and Washington.
Lashun said her son wanted to fight for his innocence.
“He said, ‘I’m not the bad guy, not me. I didn’t do that. I’m going to fight for this. I’m fighting,'” she said.
Though Lashun feels it is unjust — that others at Johnston’s party received plea deals or were never charged, that witness testimony was inconsistent and that, she believes, Lee County could not provide a fair trial given the publicity of the case — she still knows Washington did not do the right thing.
“My son, he did wrong, and he has to pay for that,” Lashun said. “It was hard for us at first. He came to us and broke down. He knew we did our work to him as parents, and he just apologized to us. He went to God and asked for forgiveness.”
Washington ran away from home prior to the Sosas’ murders and became associated with co-defendant Kenneth “Ant” Lopez.
Lashun said that prior to leaving home, her son had never been in trouble with the law.
“He was a good kid, and I think the majority of people who knew him know that,” she said. “He just got messed up with the wrong kids.”
Though the jury decided evidence against Washington exceeded the burden of proof to find him guilty, the Cape teen will appeal the conviction.
“I just want to get it out that that this is unfair,” Lashun said. “All we can do is pray, and we tell him to pray. It’s not over until God says it’s over.”
Washington will try to retain his lawyer, Paul Sullivan, for the appeal process, or otherwise will hire private council.
Washington’s father, mother, 23-year-old brother and 18-year-old sister continue to cope with what has happened, and have offered their condolences to the Sosa family for the loss of Alexis and Jeffrey.
“You just can’t imagine how they’re feeling right now,” Lashun said. “You just don’t know. Nobody really wins.”