August 27, 2014

Elyria
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Plea deal reluctantly taken

ELYRIA – Jeremy Brown reluctantly took a plea deal Thursday in the March 1 shooting death of Jason Smith during a drug robbery.

Brown

Brown

Under the terms of the deal, Brown, 22, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, aggravated robbery, burglary and felonious charges stemming from the 28-year-old Smith’s death. He also pleaded guilty in an unrelated 2009 robbery case.

In exchange, prosecutors dropped a murder charge against Brown and he agreed to testify against the alleged gunman in the case, Donzelle Crosby, who could get the death penalty if convicted. Brown was immediately sentenced to 12 years in prison by Lorain County Common Pleas Judge Raymond Ewers.

Brown was minutes away from walking away from the deal put forth by Assistant County Prosecutor Tony Cillo.

Brown had wanted to be released on bond so he could go home after entering the plea, but that wasn’t part of the deal, his attorney, Jack Bradley, said during the hearing. Brown also complained that Bradley hadn’t done everything he’d asked him to in the case.

Bradley said if Brown didn’t take the deal, he wanted off the case because he believed prosecutors had a strong case against his client. Brown could have received life in prison if he had gone to trial on the original murder charge and been convicted.

“I think that he’s committing basically sentencing suicide,” Bradley said.

Ewers told Brown that he was under no obligation to take the plea, but he believed Cillo when he said the deal wouldn’t be offered again if Brown didn’t take it Thursday.

Ewers gave Brown and Bradley five minutes to discuss the plea offer one last time. They came back into the courtroom and Brown took the deal.

“I’m just happy the court gave him five extra minutes because you probably gave him back his life,” Bradley told Ewers.

Police and prosecutors have said that Brown, Crosby, Eddie Velez – who received 15 years in his own plea deal – and Aaron Rodriguez went to a drug house on West 17th Street in Lorain to rob someone at the house who they believed had a lot of money.

Once they were inside the house, Crosby pulled down the sheet covering the doorway where they believed the money was kept, Brown told police. He then pulled the trigger of the black revolver he was armed with, but the gun misfired, so he pulled the trigger again and a round went into the floor, Brown told police.

Crosby told the others he was with to go get the money, Brown told police, and at some point Smith began moving toward Crosby and then ran toward the door and Crosby shot him.

The robbers then fled the house, according to Brown’s account of the incident.

Bradley said that Brown’s early cooperation led police to Velez.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.