A Brandon man has been sentenced for his role in a brawl that led to the death of David Bronson Azure.
Bertrand A. Blacksmith armed himself with a brick stuffed in a sock and -- while he didn't play a direct role in Azure's death -- he was part of the circumstances that had spiralled out of control.
"You can't arm yourself and go looking for revenge," Judge Shauna Hewitt-Michta told Blacksmith in Brandon court on Monday.
Blacksmith, 27, pleaded guilty to possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose.
Hewitt-Michta gave him a two-year suspended sentence in the form of probation with 100 hours of community service work.
While he wasn't involved directly in the death, Blacksmith's charge stemmed from the events surrounding the slaying of Azure on May 11, 2009.
Blacksmith was one of two men who were jumped earlier that day by a group that included Azure.
Money, drugs and a cellphone were stolen from the victims.
The two sides clashed again a short time later in an alley off Rosser Avenue between Sixth and Seventh streets.
Blacksmith, who'd armed himself with a brick stuffed inside a sock, chased another male out of the alley and wasn't involved in, and didn't witness, Azure's death.
It was Alphonso Damon Antoine -- who was on Blacksmith's side during the conflict -- who was ultimately convicted of manslaughter for fatally stabbing Azure.
Antoine entered his plea during a trial in May 2011, and was sentenced to 7 1/2 years incarceration. He was given 1.5 times credit for 21 months pre-sentence custody, leaving 4 1/2 years to serve.
Blacksmith was originally one of three suspects sought in connection with the alleyway battle, and he surrendered at the Brandon police station on July 23, 2009, after learning there was a warrant for his arrest.
He was initially charged with manslaughter, but that charge was quickly dropped.
For the remaining possession of a weapon charge against Blacksmith, Crown attorney Rich Lonstrup recommended a two-year suspended sentence.
That was part of a joint recommendation that defence lawyer Bob Harrison reached with the Crown attorneys office in exchange for Blacksmith's testimony at trial.
As it turns out, Blacksmith didn't have to testify at Antoine's murder trial because Antoine pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter instead.
Judge Shauna said Blacksmith should get three to five months in jail. However, she went along with the joint recommendation, thereby sparing Blacksmith from jail, recognizing the Crown sometimes has to strike deals to achieve successful prosecutions.
"I go along with it holding my nose because I think it stinks," Hewitt-Michta said.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition July 19, 2011 A2