Frank Badgett wept as a Lucas County Common Pleas jury acquitted him yesterday of aggravated murder in the shooting deaths of two people in 2002.
Badgett, 35, of Springfield Township, who could have been sentenced to life in prison if convicted, burst into tears as a court bailiff read the verdicts.
His family cheered and hugged when the decision was announced. The jury, which heard testimony for three days in the courtroom of Judge James Jensen, deliberated for a little over an hour.
Prosecutors alleged Badgett contracted with Prentiss Williams to kill a Toledo man who Badgett believed was behind the robbery of a large amount of drugs.
Carmita Dickey was killed and her boyfriend, Damion Davis, was wounded May 25, 2002, when Williams shot into Ms. Dickey's car on Torrey Hill Drive near Ottawa Park.
However, prosecutors said the couple wasn't the intended target of the revenge shooting, a mistake that Williams said occurred because his accomplice, Jonathon Booker, lured the wrong people to the shooting.
Booker, 24, of Birckhead Place, was found shot to death the next day in the 1300 block of Thatcher Drive. Williams testified Badgett paid him $2,300 to kill Booker to silence him about the shooting.
Badgett's niece, Shari Manning, was dating Williams at the time. She was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for her role in the murders.
Williams told authorities Badgett contracted with him for the murders after Williams tried unsuccessfully Oct. 14 to escape from the Lucas County jail. He tried to take a corrections officer hostage, using a handgun smuggled into the jail and firing it twice before he was subdued.
Don Cameron, an attorney for Badgett, said he believed Williams fabricated the murder-for-hire story to save himself from a potential death-penalty sentence. "Frank has told me all along he didn't have anything to do with these shootings," Mr. Cameron said. "Prentiss Williams used information he learned through his relationship with Shari Manning to mix truth and lies. He knew enough about Frank to fool the police."
Manning received a 15-year prison sentence in December for her role in the crimes. She also admitted to smuggling items into the jail for Williams, who she married Oct. 2, 2002, in the jail.
The plea agreement called for Manning to testify at Badgett's trial that she arranged for Williams to meet her uncle and she knew about the killing-for-hire.
Timothy Braun, an assistant prosecutor, said Manning would have corroborated Williams' testimony. However, she recently filed a motion asking the court to withdraw her plea, essentially reneging on the deal.
Mr. Braun and Mr. Cameron said jurors told them that they were not comfortable relying solely on Williams' testimony on the alleged conspiracy.
Williams, 25, was sentenced to life in prison in December after he pleaded guilty to the murders of Ms. Dickey, 30, and Booker and the shooting deaths in 1994 of Robert Hendricks and Shelley Renee Johnson.
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