JAY — After ten minutes of silent deliberation, Associate District Judge Barry Denney delivered a life sentence to a man accused of shooting Delaware County Sheriff’s Deputy Steve Brownell.
Denny’s courtroom was crowded Wednesday morning with law enforcement officers waiting to hear the sentence imposed on Jeremy Ray James, 32, who had withdrawn his plea of not guilty to a felony charge of assault and battery with a deadly weapon on Feb. 26, and entered into a blind plea agreement.
Denney sentenced the defendant to 45 years in the Department of Corrections with 20 years suspended.
James must serve 85% of the 25 years before he is eligible to be released.
He was also ordered to enter into a drug and alcohol treatment and obtain his GED and learn a trade while incarcerated.
The 20 years following his release will be under the supervision of the state’s Probation and Parole Department. He will also be required to register under the Mary Rippy Violent Crime Offenders Registration Act for his lifetime. Under the act, he will be required to register every 90 days.
“The department of corrections does a good job keeping people incarcerated, but not in rehabilitating them. For that reason, there needs to be some form of sentence when they’re released, like a big hammer when they get out,” Denney said.
James was also fined $5000 for the Victims Compensation Assessment, and is to reimburse Deputy Brownell for lost time, wages and medical care not covered by Workman’s Comp.
In an unusual move, Judge Denney also ordered James to reimburse Deputy Brownell, and the state, for medical compensation to the department’s drug dog, Chico, who received injuries to his teeth when he tried to exit the squad car after the shooting. He must also repay money collected by the Moseley school children to help with the repair of the dog’s teeth.
“I’m a strong believer in being responsible for the consequences of our actions. This is a very serious offence. Your past shows a history of drug and alcohol abuse. It was your decision to use that day,” said Denney before delivering the sentence.
Brownell took the stand as part of a victim’s impact statement claiming the shooting had affected his anger management skills.
“I’m short with my family, I experienced paranoia after the incident and loss of sleep,” Deputy Brownell said.
He also informed the court that he is still in counseling.
Assistant District Attorney Kenny Wright asked the deputy what his thoughts or opinions were on the sentence.
Brownell responded, “I’d like him to get life for what he’s done to me, my family and my friends.”
In his closing statement before sentencing, Wright told Denney, “We need to send a strong message. Criminals need to know that you can’t shoot law enforcement officers. They are out there in harm’s way to protect us. We need to stand behind them today and I ask that you give this defendant a life sentence.”
In his defense, attorney Lee Eberle told Judge Denney that her client was clearly remorseful and has drug issues that need to be addressed.
“There’ a huge difference between the previous sentence and the life sentence that’s being asked for today. He admits to using meth that night, and yes it was his choice, but in his heart, he didn’t want to kill anybody,” she said.
Wright had the last say before sentencing, and told the judge that the agreement offered to James on Sept. 11, 2008 was a “sweet deal,” in reference to the 20-year sentence, 10 of which were suspended. He was also ordered to register as a violent offender. After that plea agreement was reached, James was sent to DOC, but was returned to the county claiming he didn’t know he had to register as a violent offender and withdrew that plea agreement with the state for that reason.
He appeared before Judge Haney on Oct. 27, 2008 and asked for a jury trial. Judge Haney warned him that should he be found guilty, the charge could carry a life sentence and he would have to serve 34 1/2 years without a chance for parole or good time served.
James told Judge Haney he understood, and a trial date of March 9, 2009 was set.
“We offered James that deal to prevent what’s going on today in court for Deputy Brownell today. When he came back he said forget you all, he threw it in our face and now he’s trying to get a better deal today,” said Wright.
In the early morning hours of June 15, 2008, Deputy Brownell, was shot with a .22 caliber rifle, sustaining injuries to his upper arm, when he and officers Rick Pike and Matt North responded to the Butler church area after James called 911 and reported that two people were walking around in the area, and were going in and out of buildings with rifles.
According to Investigator Ron Teel of the Delaware County Sheriff’s Department, Deputy Brownell was shot once, from the inside of the James’ home, when he went to the door to report to James that the officers had found no one in the area.
James claims he did not know the men were law enforcement officers.
James was under the influence of an intoxicating substance at the time, according to authorities.