Ex-Laney star pleads guilty to reduced charge

A former standout high school football player decided to plead guilty to a reduced charge instead of facing another jury.

A Richmond County Superior Court jury announced Wednesday that it had deadlocked at 6-6 on Timothy Wright's role in an April 2006 robbery.

Mr. Wright, 21, could have proceeded with a retrial on armed robbery and other charges. But if a jury convicted him as charged, he would face at least a decade in prison without the possibility of parole and as much as life behind bars.

The plea negotiation, if accepted by Judge Carl C. Brown Jr., means Mr. Wright will plead guilty to robbery, a charge punishable by one to 20 years. Unlike armed robbery, there is no mandatory minimum prison sentence, and if the judge imposes a prison sentence he would be eligible for parole.

No sentencing date has been set.

Mr. Wright, then a junior at Lucy C. Laney High School, was working at Burger King on a night when two classmates -- Johnny Overstreet and Kenneth Walker -- robbed it.

"This is a good kid," defense attorney Jacque Hawk said of Mr. Wright.

The student played football, worked 40 hours a week and gave part of his earnings to his mother, according to trial testimony. Mr. Wright was too busy to get into trouble, Mr. Hawk said.

Mr. Overstreet and Mr. Walker, who had robbed several restaurants, didn't need Mr. Wright's help, his attorney argued in closing.

But Assistant District Attorney Adam King countered that Mr. Wright was the enabler and that, according to Mr. Walker's statement to police, he was an enthusiastic participant. Mr. Wright loaned his car to his two friends, and he opened the back door to let them in that night, Mr. King told the jury.

"This is a tragic story for everyone involved. But try as I might, I can't shed a tear for this man -- he is not the victim. He's not the one who thought he was going to die that night," Mr. King said.

The real victims were Mr. Wright's co-workers, who were confronted by two masked men threatening them with a gun and a 12-inch knife, Mr. King said.

Mr. Overstreet is serving life in prison. Mr. Walker is serving a 20-year prison sentence to be followed by 15 years on probation.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or sandy.hodson@augustachronicle.com.