17-year-old sentenced to six years in adult prison facility for park shooting PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marty Randall   
Wednesday, 11 October 2017 23:12


Seventeen-year-old Detai Howard of Austin will spend at least four of the six years to which he was sentenced on Monday, September 25, in an adult prison facility.

Scott Circuit Court Judge Jason Mount listened to four hours of testimony during Howard’s sentencing hearing before deciding to send the slenderly-built teenager to an adult facility on a charge of aggravated battery causing permanent disfigurement or protracted loss of or impairment of function.

As he returned to the bench after a 25- minute break during which he made the decision, Judge Mount told the young man and his family it had been a difficult decision to make.

Detai Howard was videoed by cell phone shooting a man he knew from New Albany in the leg on the east side of Beechwood Park on May 31. A by-stander had heard the two arguing loudly about a gun Howard had allegedly stolen from the man, identified as Jonathon Borton, and began videoing the confrontation. Howard had pulled the handgun from his backpack, aiming at Borton. After Borton was shot, Howard fired at a car, hitting it once. He then ran from the scene, discarding the still-loaded gun in a ditch.

After surrendering to police, Howard told officers where they could find the weapon, and it was safely recovered.

Part of the evidence presented in the case by Chief Deputy Prosecutor Raleigh Campbell Jr. involved a screening of the video and testimony from Lt./Detective Steven Herald of the Scottsburg Police Department and Austin High School principal Ryan Herald.

Lt. Herald said Borton is recovering from his wound. He had been transported by ambulance to University of Louisville Hospital for treatment after the shooting.

Howard was taken to the Jackson County Youth Detention Center in Brownstown soon after the shooting. Charges of Level 3 felony aggravated battery and Level 5 battery and criminal recklessness were filed against him on August 3. He entered into a plea agreement on the Level 3 charge five days later. A pre-sentence investigation was ordered with the date of sentencing set on September 25.

Howard had appeared alert and fairly optimistic during the testimony phase of the sentencing. He sometimes appeared to be checking facts with his attorney, public defender Josh Stigdon, especially during the testimony of a young woman who stated she saw the shooting and helped get Borton to safety. However, after hearing he was headed to an adult prison, Howard’s head went down and he rarely looked up.

“The State wanted (you to get) nine years in prison. I am giving you six,” Judge Mount told the young man. The issue over whether to send the young man, now nearly 18 years old, to a prison for adult offenders or keep him in a youth facility apparently caused Judge Mount some anguish. He said as he looked over the facts of the case, however, he determined that Howard needed to be in an adult prison.

“You shot a person in a park where there were other people, including children, nearby. If the bullet had entered just a little bit more to one side (of Borton’s leg), we could have been looking at a murder charge instead of aggravated battery. You continued to shoot the weapon after you had wounded Mr. Borton, again in a place where there were innocent people. You threw the loaded gun in a ditch where anyone could have found it. Things you did right were surrendering to police and telling them where the gun was,” the judge said.

Behavioral problems Howard had experienced while in school in Austin and later at the Brownstown youth center were noted as well. The judge also seemed moved by a two-page written statement Howard made, acknowledging his responsibility in the shooting incident and his hopes to get a college degree in business.

Judge Mount said Howard will have more opportunities available to him at the adult prison. “This is what I want you to do: I want you to prove to me that you can behave, and that you are serious about completing your education. I will allow you to participate in several programs, get your GED (general education degree), get substance abuse therapy and anger therapy. I want you to, at the end of four years, show me that you are ready and able to be a responsible adult,” Judge Mount advised.

If Howard completes four years in prison satisfactorily and takes advantage of the programs offered to him, the judge said he would grant Howard’s petition for a sentence modification hearing. “Then we’ll talk about a possible sentence modification,” he said. Howard was given 156 days of credit for time already served.

Howard has the opportunity to appeal his sentence, and Judge Mount directed Stigdon to advise his client about filing that appeal.