What defense attorneys called a tragic accident was more a string of bad choices choices that left one man dead, a Lucas County assistant prosecutor said yesterday.
James Cole, 47, was sentenced yesterday to 12 years in prison for the Oct. 31 shooting death of Rogelio Campos, who was known as Roger.
Judge Gary Cook found Cole guilty June 18 of involuntary manslaughter with a gun specification after he entered an Alford plea to the lesser charge.
What is clear is that this is a case about choices, regardless of the relationship between the victim and the defendant, Assistant Prosecutor Jevne Meader said.
First and foremost, it was his choice to attend this party with a weapon and, second, the choice not to leave the party when problems became apparent. And last, the choice to operate that firearm.
Authorities said the incident occurred during a night of partying at a Greenwood Avenue address when an argument broke out between Cole and the victim. Mr. Campos forced Cole out of the residence and the argument intensified outside.
The dispute turned physical when one of the men pushed the other and Cole pulled out a gun. He fired two shots in the air, then lowered the gun and fired a shot in Mr. Campos chest, authorities said.
By entering an Alford plea, Cole avoided going to trial for murder.
In an Alford plea, the defendant maintains his innocence or does not admit he committed a crime but still pleads guilty because he decides it is in his best interest. The court treats it the same as a guilty plea.
Douglas King, a Cleveland attorney, said although his client s actions were inexcusable, they were accidental.
He added that the two men were friends and that Cole was devastated by what happened that night.
Cole apologized to both his and Mr. Campos families.
He said in the 13 years he had known the Campos family, the men never had any problems.
It was a tragic accident. I wish I could take his place, he said. I just want his family to know and my family that if I could take it all back I would. It was just a situation that got out of control.
Cole s sister, Glenda Jordan, mirrored her brother s sentiments.
Along with her mother and other family members, Ms. Jordan watched tearfully as a shackled Cole was taken off to prison.
It s very devastating. We re just sorry for the family s loss because they need to go through the pain of losing someone, she said of the Campos family.
As far as we know, it was an accident. He didn t mean to do it. If he could take it back, I know he would.
Tearful members of Mr. Campos family sat in Judge Cook s courtroom yesterday.
Family members denied that Cole and Mr. Campos were friends, saying that the men only peripherally knew one another.
Mr. Campos younger brother, Ricardo, said he was pleased with the sentence and now hoped that his family could find closure.
Pointing out that his brother was killed exactly nine months ago to the day, Ricardo Campos said he hoped the healing would soon begin.
There is a sense of closure, he said. It s hard. It s hard every day, but we deal with it and we re getting better as every day goes by.