Johnston receives four life sentences for double murder
A judge sentenced Kemar Johnston to four life sentences plus 30 years in prison Monday in connection to an October 2006 double murder.
Johnston, 23, a member of the so-called Cash Feenz group, faced life in prison without parole or the death penalty in connection to the torture and slaying of Alexis Sosa, 18, and his 14-year-old nephew, Jeffrey Sosa. Twentieth Judicial Circuit Judge Thomas S. Reese considered a jury’s recommendation of life before making a final decision.
At the Lee County Justice Center in Fort Myers, Reese delivered his decision just after 1:30 p.m. Monday in courtroom 8A. According to Samantha Syoen, spokeswoman for the State Attorney’s Office, the Sosas’ families chose not to address the court prior to the sentencing.
“The judge agreed with the jury’s recommendation,” she said.
Johnston was found guilty Jan. 30 by a jury on two counts each of first-degree murder, kidnapping and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. The same 12-member jury of 10 women and two men recommended life in prison without parole for Johnson after deliberating for less than an hour Feb. 19.
Reese sentenced Johnston to one life sentence for each count of murder, one life sentence for each count of kidnapping and 15 years for each count of aggravated battery. The sentences will run consecutively. Syoen added that Johnston was also fined nearly $500 in court costs.
“As far as the state, as far as we’re concerned, we’re satisfied with the judge’s decision,” she said. “We do think it was a death penalty case, but we do respect the recommendation of the jury.”
Defense attorney and lead counsel David A. Brener said his team is satisfied with the outcome of the case. Attorney Terry Lenamon served as co-counsel for the defense.
“We’re obviously pleased that Kemar is not going to be on death row and that he is not going to be executed,” he said.
He noted that they were extremely pleased with the jury’s recommendation, especially with the fact that it was unanimous.
Brener said the jury selection process allowed his team to select a fair and impartial jury that was willing to consider the mitigating circumstances and life imprisonment.
But, Brener added, “in cases like this nobody wins.”
“In one sense, it was a victory for Kemar,” he said. “But, in the other sense, you have all of these lives ruined, all of these co-defendants, and two, young men dead.”
“My condolences do go out to the victims and the victims’ families,” Brener said. “All of these families have been traumatized by what happened in this case.”
He explained that one reason Reese would have had a difficult time overriding the jury’s recommendation is the number of mitigating factors presented. He said a case would require “virtually no mitigating factors” for a judge to rule in favor of the death penalty after a jury has recommended life in prison.
“He was constrained by the law to follow the jury’s recommendation,” Brener said.
Johnston was one of 10 people arrested and charged in connection to the murders.
The Sosas were hog-tied, beaten and tortured at a Cape Coral duplex during a birthday party. They were then driven to an industrial park in the north Cape Coral, where they were fatally shot and Alexis’ body was placed in the trunk of a car and it was set on fire. Emergency units responding to a call about a possible fire discovered the car in flames and Jeffrey’s body lying nearby.
Roderick Washington and Ashley Toye were found guilty following separate trials. Washington received four consecutive life sentences plus 30 years in prison, and Toye was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Melissa Rivera, Iriana Santos, Alexis Fernandez, Cody Roux and Michael Balint have each pleaded guilty to lesser crimes and will receive prison sentences varying between 14 years and 26 years in exchange for their testimony.
Kenneth “Ant” Lopez’s trial is scheduled for May 17.
Paul Nunes, who pleaded guilty in August for a reduced sentence of 40 years, also had a court appearance Monday. Nunes has requested that his plea deal, which required him to testify against Johnston and Lopez, be withdrawn. His attorney asked for more time Monday to make a decision on that request.
A judge set a future court date for the week of April 5.