The possibility that the killing of former Westside High School star running back Sergio Campbell might have resulted from a combination of self-defense and confusion led attorneys to reach a plea deal Wednesday with the man charged with his death.
The charges against Harry Lee Jones, 22, which included two counts of murder, aggravated assault and other firearms charges -- were reduced to one count of voluntary manslaughter in exchange for his plea. He was sentenced according to the state's recommendation to 10 years in prison, followed by 10 years of probation.
Assistant District Attorney Rex Myers described a convoluted series of events that led to Campbell's death outside a McDonald's restaurant on Deans Bridge Road on Jan. 24, 2010.
Myers said that according to what investigators have pieced together from the people involved, in addition to surveillance video from the McDonald's, three groups of young men were riding in three vehicles: a silver Toyota sport utility vehicle contained Jones and another man; a white Oldsmobile was driven by Campbell; and a green minivan with unidentified occupants. The vehicles gathered in the restaurant parking lot at the same time.
Authorities said someone in the minivan shot at the SUV that Jones was riding in. Jones fired at the Oldsmobile, hitting Campbell with two bullets.
The defendant argued that he was fighting back in self-defense and, according to Myers, thought the gunshots were coming from the white car.
Campbell had good reason to suspect he was about to be the victim of a drive-by shooting, Myers said.
Less than an hour before, the same vehicles had been in Augusta's Harrisburg neighborhood, where someone in the minivan first fired on the SUV. How and why they all drove to the McDonald's across town is not clear, Myers said. Neither is it clear what started the shooting.
"There is no apparent reason or motive for that," Myers told the courtroom. "It's just that everyone involved in the case seems to acknowledge that event took place."
The lack of details and confusion about the incident -- added to the apparent defensive nature of Jones' actions -- meant it could have been self-defense, Myers said.
"It appears that this could very much be a case of mistaken (identity) in that Harry Jones may have returned fire to the wrong vehicle," he said. "Essentially, it's an imperfect self-defense case."
Whether Jones meant to kill Campbell was of little consolation to the mother and sister of the victim, who argued against a reduced sentence.
"I would rather him get put away for a long time," Linda Campbell, the victim's mother, told Superior Court Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet. "That would be justice."
Jones apologized for the killing -- saying he acted out of fear for his life. "I pray you forgive me every night and I pray for your family," he said. "I was just protecting myself."