James Moore turns and apologizes to the Hooks' family. At right is his attorney Allison Lawrence. He pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter for his role in the death of Keondra Hooks.
The Blade/Jetta Fraser
James Moore turned to the parents and grandmother of Keondra and Leondra Hooks in court Thursday and told the grieving family directly, “I’m sorry.”
Moore, 21, drove the getaway vehicle Aug. 9, the night two fellow members of the Manor Boyz gang shot into the apartment where 1-year-old Keondra and her 2-year-old sister were asleep, mistakenly believing a rival gang member was inside. The 16 shots left Keondra dead and Leondra wounded.
Moore of 2037 W. Terrace View St. pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and was immediately sentenced by Judge Frederick McDonald to three years in prison — an arrangement reached between prosecutors and Moore in May when he admitted his role in the shooting and promised to testify against co-defendants Keshawn Jennings and Antwaine Jones.
Jennings, 21, and Jones, 19, both were convicted July 5 of aggravated murder and seven other charges following a two-week jury trial. They face up to life in prison when sentenced July 23.
“I go to sleep every night knowing that an innocent young girl got took from her family all over nothing,” Moore told the court. “I can’t imagine what y’all are going through losing your little girl. I hope you will find it in your heart to accept my apology, and I would like to say once again I am very, very sorry.”
When Judge McDonald told him he could turn around and address the victims’ family, he again said he was sorry. Moore’s grandfather, Zettie Williams, who was sitting behind the victims’ family, said out loud, “Thank you Jesus. Thank you Jesus.”
As Moore was led from the courtroom, the little girls’ mother and father told him they forgave him. Mr. Williams told his grandson, “Love you. Keep your head up.”
Andy Lastra, an assistant Lucas County prosecutor, told the court that prosecutors were prepared to take the case against all three men to trial in May, when investigators spoke with Moore and he underwent a polygraph examination about the events of that night. He passed, Mr. Lastra said.
“He was truthful ... and again reiterated his desire to testify,” he said.
Defense attorney Allison Lawrence told the court that most of the young men she represents are interested only in themselves — when am I getting out of jail? How much do they have on me? How much time am I facing?
“It’s always me, me, me, me,” she said. “In the nearly one year now that I have known J.T. and the countless conversations I’ve had with him, he has not once asked me those questions. Since day one, his concern has been about the family of Keondra and Leondra Hooks, his mother, his son, his best friend from childhood — Keshawn Jennings — Keshawn’s grandmother, the rest of Keshawn’s family, his friend Antwaine Jones, and Antwaine’s family.”
Because of that, Ms. Lawrence told the court, “I believe that J.T. will take this second opportunity at life and he’ll turn it in a different direction.”
In imposing the agreed-upon three-year sentence, Judge McDonald gave Moore credit for the 277 days he already has spent in the Lucas County jail.
The victims’ family declined to comment afterward.
Mr. Williams said after the hearing that they appreciated that his grandson came forward and told the truth about what happened.
“He’s the only and first one to ever really apologize to the family,” Mr. Williams said.
He credited the power of prayer with making things work out in the case. “I was asking God to touch his heart and for him do the right thing,” Mr. Williams said.
Contact Jennifer Feehan