Suspects in birthday party shooting ordered for trial

Many more people at party than invited
Johndrick Lors Levert Barnes will be prosecuted for murder in connection with a shooting at a birthday party for one of James Brown's grandchildren.

A Magistrate Court judge said Tuesday that there is enough evidence against four Augusta men charged in the March shooting of a teenage employee at Belair Conference Center to proceed with prosecution in Superior Court.


Columbia County Associate Magistrate Judge Jason Troiano said at the preliminary hearing that investigators have sufficient probable cause in the case against Johndrick Lors Levert Barnes, 20, to bind him over to Superior Court for further investigation and prosecution of a murder charge.

Barnes was arrested April 22 and is being held in the Columbia County Detention Center without bond. His attorney, Lindsey Hix, requested a bond hearing, but Troiano said that because of the murder charge, Barnes' bond can be addressed only by a Superior Court judge.

Cases against Brandon Devon Berry, 17; Morrieo Demetrius Carswell, 17; and Jordan Dashawn Harrison, 18 -- who are charged with making false statements in connection with the shooting -- also were bound over to Superior Court.

A 16-year-old Augusta boy also was charged with making false statements.

At a March 19 birthday party for a granddaughter of the late James Brown, conference center employee James Sterling Gillette Jr., 19, was fatally shot.

"We believe, in our speculation, he was shot by someone randomly shooting a weapon," Columbia County sheriff's Investigator Randall Chambers said. "We can't say he was an intended target."

More than 50 invitations were sent for the "invite only" party, but Chambers said 200 to 300 people showed up. Information provided by two confidential sources indicated that a particular song incited some party-goers to display gang signs. They were warned but did it again, and the party was stopped.

"Music was shut down, the lights were turned off and people were told to go home," Chambers said.

As the crowd moved outside, shots rang out. A .380-caliber bullet hit Gillette in the abdomen as he tried to lead panicked party-goers back inside.

"This is a serious case that resulted in the death of an innocent bystander, a good Samaritan," Assistant District Attorney Geoffrey Fogus said.

An e-mail sent to Gillette's father from someone he refuses to name and information from the confidential sources -- who Chambers said were not being named because they would be intimidated -- were used to focus on Barnes and the others.

They said they had already left the party when the shooting started.

"They all had different stories about how they got there, who they were with and things of that nature," Chambers said. "They were all present, and they all left together."

Shell casings found at the conference center match ones found outside Barnes' home.

Troiano also refused to grant bond for Harrison, who has a criminal record, saying he believed Harrison would commit a felony and was likely to flee or intimidate witnesses in the case.

The 16-year-old was previously granted a bond and released from the Regional Youth Detention Center.

The judge granted $25,000 bonds for Berry and Carswell, who have no criminal records. Troiano said he had serious reservations about their release without tight restrictions. He feared they would intimidate witnesses or leave the area.

He required they wear ankle bracelets and prohibited them from leaving their homes, having jobs, going to school or church, having a computer in the home, having a cell phone, answering the door and being in the presence of anyone other than immediate family.

"You are not to be in your front yard or your backyard," Troiano told the teens, "or have your heads hanging out the windows of your homes."