Exactly a year after a Lincoln woman was shot and killed in her home by robbers looking for $85,000 in drug money, deputies led her fiance, Michael Robertson, out of a courtroom in handcuffs to serve time on drug charges.
Jessica Brandon’s family and friends, there to support Robertson, cried and hugged in the hallway, visibly upset by the 16- to 21-year sentence.
Moments earlier, Omaha defense attorney Glenn Shapiro said they knew Brandon’s killers were lured there early July 31, 2018, because of the drugs and money in the house.
“But they also knew Michael never intended anything to befell Jessica that day,” he said, calling what happened a tragedy.
Shapiro said Robertson had been the target of the thieves, who kicked down the door and indiscriminately started shooting.
Despite efforts to save her, Brandon died.
Shapiro said, to Robertson's credit, he was honest with a probation officer in a pre-sentence interview, saying that a couple of years ago he and Brandon had lost their jobs, fell behind and turned to selling marijuana to be able to buy a house.
But, Robertson said in the interview, he never thought of the consequences of what may happen "till some guys we did not know broke into our home and murdered my fiancee.”
Shapiro said while Brandon was getting CPR, Robertson admitted he hid a duffel bag and cooler of marijuana because he was scared. Robertson told the probation officer he knew his actions were wrong, “and I have to live with the pain every day.”
In May, he pleaded guilty to possession with intent to deliver marijuana and misdemeanor child abuse; and, Shapiro said, he did what he could to get justice for Brandon and asked the judge to take that into consideration in sentencing.
Deputy Lancaster County Attorney Jeff Mathers said he's heard a lot of talk about selling marijuana being a nonviolent offense and how the state’s prisons shouldn’t be filled with people who committed nonviolent crimes.
“I hope those people that say that are paying attention,” he said.
Mathers said drug-dealing promotes violence and is a "very dirty business.” He said some say that if the state legalized marijuana these things wouldn’t occur. But, the prosecutor argued, people like Robertson are always going to take shortcuts and commit crimes to make money.
In this case, video cameras outside the home at 1950 Fairfield St. showed three men, two carrying handguns, kicking in the door at 3:39 a.m. Lincoln police later determined that 13 9mm gunshots were fired from the top of the stairs into the basement before the men left at 3:42 a.m.
Two minutes later, Robertson worked to hide nearly 3 pounds of marijuana and edibles and $85,800 in drug money before police arrived.
Wednesday, Lancaster County District Judge Jodi Nelson said essentially this case was about a business opportunity that Robertson had entered into to make easy money. The problem is, it came with risks, risks Robertson knew about from getting caught in 2012, she said.
She said Robertson knew the people he was dealing with were unsavory, even dangerous.
“Yet you did it anyway,” Nelson said, calling the decision to put his family’s safety at risk astonishing. “Ultimately you set this in motion.”
And she sentenced him to the prison term that will mean at least eight years behind bars.
As deputies walked toward Robertson to put handcuffs on, people behind him told him they loved him. People in T-shirts with a photo of Brandon on the front left in tears.
Five people face charges in federal court in connection with her killing.
Tawhyne Patterson Sr., Damon Williams and his brother Dante Williams have been indicted on suspicion of using a firearm resulting in Brandon’s murder during a crime of violence and attempted interference with commerce by trying to rob Robertson of money or marijuana.
Ira Morrow is accused of attempted robbery. And William Boothe III is accused of being an accessory after the fact.
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