Topeka man sentenced to 10 years in prison for role in Massachusetts Street shootings

photo by: Mike Yoder

Ahmad M. Rayton exits the Douglas County Division II courtroom, Wednesday, May 8, 2019, after he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his role in the deadly 2017 shootings on Massachusetts Street.

Story updated at 5:40 p.m. Wednesday, May 8, 2019:

A Topeka man was sentenced to 10 years in prison Wednesday for his role in the 2017 shootings on Massachusetts Street that killed three people and wounded two others.

Ahmad M. Rayton, 23, was originally charged with three felonies from the incident: two counts of attempted second-degree murder — for allegedly shooting one man and trying to shoot another — as well as being a felon in possession of a firearm.

In April, Rayton took a plea deal and was convicted instead of a single count of attempted voluntary manslaughter, a felony, for shooting at the man he missed, Robert Wheeler.

Douglas County District Court Judge Sally Pokorny sentenced Rayton to 120 months in prison, though she said about a year and a half will be taken off for the 568 days he’s already spent in jail since his arrest. Rayton’s prison stay will be followed by two years of supervised release. He also will be required to register as a violent offender for 15 years.

Rayton is the second defendant in the high-profile case to be convicted with a plea instead of going to trial.

photo by: Mike Yoder

Ahmad M. Rayton exits the Douglas County Division II courtroom, Wednesday, May 8, 2019, after he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his role in the deadly 2017 shootings on Massachusetts Street.

In March, Dominique J. McMillon, 20, of Topeka, pleaded no contest to misdemeanor battery for hitting Wheeler, sparking the fistfight that turned into shooting. McMillon was sentenced to six months in jail, a length of time he’d already served while awaiting trial in the case.

Those deals enabled prosecutors to prioritize their case against the last defendant — who’s charged with the most serious crimes, including all three homicides — Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson has said.

Anthony L. Roberts Jr., 22, of Topeka, is scheduled to go on trial June 10. Roberts is charged with two counts of first-degree murder, one count of second-degree murder and one count of attempted second-degree murder.

The three friends drove to Lawrence together on the night of the shootings, according to evidence at the men’s joint preliminary hearing last year.

It was about 1:40 a.m. — bar-closing time — on Oct. 1, 2017, when the defendants got into a confrontation with other Topeka men on the northwest corner of 11th and Massachusetts streets.

A fistfight broke out, then a spray of around 20 gunshots.

The victims who died were Leah Elizabeth Brown, 22, of Shawnee; Colwin Lynn Henderson III, 20, of Topeka; and Tre’Mel Dupree Dean-Rayton, 24, of Topeka. Royelle Hunt and Tahzay Rayton, both of Topeka, were shot but survived.

Brown, who’d just left a nearby bar, was the only victim who didn’t know anyone else involved.

All three defendants did go on trial as a group in November — almost.

The judge declared a mistrial four days into the jury selection process. Roberts’ first attorney, whom he hired himself, made comments and asked questions that tainted the entire jury pool, Pokorny ruled.

Afterward, Pokorny agreed to separate the three men’s cases and appointed Roberts two new attorneys, who are handling his case now.

Ahmad Rayton’s sentence is the standard under state sentencing guidelines for the severity of his conviction and someone with his criminal history, Pokorny said. He has a prior felony conviction in Kansas, for a 2014 aggravated assault in Shawnee County, according to Kansas Department of Corrections records.

Other than the DA recommending the 120-month sentence, no one but the judge spoke during Rayton’s sentencing hearing.

When invited to make a statement, Brown’s mother, Gretchen Brown, who was seated in the courtroom with several other relatives, shook her head no and reached for tissues.

Rayton declined, as did his appointed attorney Michael Clarke.

After the hearing, a number of Rayton’s supporters who had been in the courtroom — including his co-defendant McMillon — declined offers to comment to a reporter.

The judge did make a statement directed at the victims’ families, saying she understood the circumstances were difficult for them.

“There will never be any closure here,” Pokorny said. “This is not a case — even where there’s a plea and sentencing — where this pain will ever end.”

Recent coverage: Downtown Lawrence triple murder trial

• April 3 — Second co-defendant convicted following plea deal in Massachusetts Street murder case

• March 8 — Judge rejects Lawrence triple-murder defendant’s self-defense claim

• March 5 — One co-defendant in downtown Lawrence triple murder case now free after pleading to misdemeanor

• Jan. 11 — Massachusetts Street triple murder trial pushed back until June

• Dec. 4 — After attorney drama in Lawrence triple murder trial, new defense team ready to move forward

• Nov. 20 — Citing ‘incompetence,’ judge kicks attorney off downtown Lawrence triple murder case

• Nov. 16 — Defense attorney tainted jury pool, causing mistrial in downtown Lawrence triple murder case, transcript reveals

• Nov. 15 — Judge: Defense attorney’s demand to disqualify DA from triple murder trial was ‘totally misplaced’

• Nov. 9 — Each defendant in downtown triple murder case will now have his own trial; family of shooting victim ‘devastated’

• Nov. 8 — Mass. Street triple murder trial called off: Judge declares mistrial before jury is picked

• Nov. 7 — Still no jury after 3 days of jury selection for downtown Lawrence triple murder trial

• Nov. 6 — Jury selection spills into third day for Massachusetts Street triple murder trial; media coverage of high-profile case factors into questioning

• Nov. 5 — About 170 potential jurors fill courthouse to begin selection process for downtown Lawrence triple murder trial

• Nov. 1 — Murder defendant’s attorney, DAs clash in ‘cringeworthy’ final hearing before Mass. Street trial

• Oct. 31 — In last-minute filing, Mass. Street triple murder defendant wants DA disqualified from upcoming trial

• Oct. 19 — Lawyer says Massachusetts Street triple murder defendant plans to argue self-defense, slain men shouldn’t be called victims


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