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Archive for Friday, August 23, 1996

SHOOTING SUSPSECT PLEADS TO LESSER CHARGE

August 23, 1996

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Four days before his trial was set to begin, a Topeka man pleaded guilty of trying to shoot and kill a Lawrence resident.

The man who pulled the trigger in a Lawrence gang-related shooting pleaded guilty Thursday to attempted second degree murder in a plea agreement.

Marcus F. Knight, 20, Topeka, admitted that on May 28 he aimed a .22-caliber handgun at a Lawrence resident and fired several shots in his direction, attempting to kill him.

After Douglas County Sheriff's officers brought him into the empty courtroom, Knight sat in the front row and held his face in his hands.

His trial had been scheduled to begin Monday.

"This is a good conviction," Douglas County Dist. Atty. Christine Tonkovich said. "It sends a message to the gang community that Lawrence is not going to tolerate this kind of activity."

Knight's attorney, David Brown, said his only comment was that "Marcus said it all."

As part of the agreement, five counts of attempted first degree murder were dropped, and one was changed.

Because of a 1994 auto burglary conviction, Knight was also found guilty as a felon in possession of a firearm.

It was the third plea agreement involving recent gang-related shootings. None of the shootings resulted in injury.

Alonzo Boyd, 20, Topeka, the driver of the vehicle in which Knight was riding when he fired at a carload of Lawrence residents, also pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of aiding and abetting both an aggravated assault and the shooting of a firearm at an occupied dwelling.

Boyd and Knight were involved in a high-speed car chase in West Lawrence May 28 when the car they were chasing pulled into a driveway in the 300 block of Cattleman Trail. Knight opened fire, hitting the car and the house in front of it.

Tonkovich said difficulty securing witnesses and testimony played a role in Knight's plea agreement.

"It was difficult -- particularly for the civilian witnesses," Tonkovich said. "It seems to be magnified in gang cases."

Although the public may view plea agreements negatively, she said, a high percentage of criminal cases are settled with pleas. She characterized such a high-level felony conviction as a definite victory.

"The term plea agreement does have a negative connotation," Tonkovich said. "But this is an excellent resolution to this case."

Under Kansas sentencing guidelines, Knight could face almost 20 years in prison. Judge Michael Malone said Thursday it was likely Knight would be sentenced to 5 years.

He is scheduled for sentencing Oct. 3.

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