Silent but seemingly self-assured, Keon Marquell Cortez Anderson entered a fourth floor courtroom in downtown Charleston Thursday afternoon and waited for the decision he knew would come.
After a brisk hearing in Circuit Judge Roger Young's courtroom, Anderson, a 23-year-old resident of Poplin Avenue in North Charleston, was sentenced to 15 years in state prison on a voluntary manslaughter charge and 10 years on four counts of first-degree assault and battery that will be served at the same time as the manslaughter charge.
Thursday's proceedings came as prosecutors sought to wrap up a case that spanned more than three years, involved a roving gunfight on the streets of North Charleston and left an innocent mother dead.
Anderson was one of the last defendants to be sentenced for the Mother's Day 2015 death of Dena Brown. The 36-year-old mother of three was fatally wounded in a drive-by shooting while on her way back home from a celebration with her own mother.
The North Charleston man and another defendant who appeared in court on Tuesday, 24-year-old Richard Simmons, each received lenient sentences because of their cooperation in the case.
"In this line of work, a lot of times you do have to make deals with the devil, so to speak, to resolve the case at the end of the day," said Assistant Solicitor Culver Kidd, who led the prosecution. "That was especially the case here."
Brown's death was solved in large part due to Anderson's and Simmons' testimony and cooperation, Kidd said.
In light of that, authorities crafted sentences that took that assistance and acceptance of responsibility into account, while also holding them accountable for their actions, he said.
It began shortly before 2 a.m. on May 10, 2015 after an ongoing beef between gang members in North Charleston erupted into a roving gun fight involving two vehicles.
Police received reports that the vehicles — a dark-colored car and a silver Chrysler 300 — were shooting at each other near Lawrence Street and Constitution Avenue in the Dorchester-Waylyn neighborhood.
Investigators later determined that the three main suspects in Brown's death, Anderson, Simmons and Kenneth Lamont Robinson Jr., now 19, were inside the dark-colored car.
The three chased the Chrysler down Dorchester and Ashley Phosphate roads, exchanging gunfire along the way. Simmons was at the wheel.
When they got to the area of Ashley Phosphate and Interstate 26, the Chrysler escaped. The three searched for their target, saw a Chrysler 300 and went in for the kill.
Simmons pulled up along side the vehicle and they started firing.
Inside that car, however, was Brown.
She was struck in the neck by a bullet later found to have come from Simmons' weapon. Her car crashed into a barrier wall between an Exxon gas station and a Denny’s restaurant near 2330 Ashley Phosphate Road.
She died at a hospital.
Brown's family did not attend Thursday's hearing and Kidd remarked in court that they were grappling with some of the sentencing outcomes in the case.
Although Simmons fired the fatal shot, he was given the minimum sentence on a murder charge: 30 years.
Robinson, whose case went to trial where Simmons and Anderson testified against him, received a 50-year sentence.
"If it weren't for Kenneth Robinson, this would have never happened," Kidd said. "In my view of the case he was always the most culpable. This was sort of a gang warfare. It was he who made all the phone calls (and) rallied the troops. It was his beef."
Speaking to the courtroom before imposing Anderson's sentence, Young remarked on the complexity of the case, the emotions involved and the fact that he had now overseen proceedings for several defendants associated with Brown's death.
"Every time I'm just struck by now senseless it was," the judge said. "There's nobody really happy with (the sentence) but under the circumstances it is a sentence that I will impose. To have no conviction at all would be a much bigger tragedy."
Aside from his 15-year sentence, Anderson received nearly two years of credit for time served in jail so far.
Proceedings against another defendant, 23-year-old Latrel Hamilton, of Suzanne Drive in North Charleston, are still pending. Hamilton is believed to be an occupant of a vehicle involved in chasing the Chrysler that escaped but not the vehicle involved in Brown's shooting, according to Kidd.
This story has been updated to reflect which vehicle Hamilton was in.