Man gets 20 to 40 years in fatal shooting

Posted: May 18, 2014

After it was over, as two families mingled uneasily in the courthouse hallway, Kenneth Jones walked to Ronald Benton and offered condolences.

Benton, tall and angular, rose from a bench and responded in kind, and they shook hands.

It was the one positive moment Friday, when Rahmik Beckett - Benton's nephew and the killer of Jones' brother - went to prison for 20 to 40 years.

In February, a Philadelphia Common Pleas Court jury found Beckett guilty of voluntary manslaughter in the 2011 shooting of Kevin Jones, 24, who Beckett said he believed killed his close friend and was gunning for him.

In addition to killing Jones in a chaotic nighttime shootout at 32d and Tasker Streets in South Philadelphia, Beckett was found guilty of firing at two police officers, who came upon a crowd of frightened, fleeing people as they searched for a suspect in an unrelated shooting in nearby Grays Ferry.

"You caused a great risk of danger to everybody in this neighborhood, all those innocent people," Judge Rose Marie DeFino-Nastasi told Beckett.

DeFino-Nastasi imposed consecutive 10- to 20-year terms for the guilty verdicts for voluntary manslaughter and assault on a law enforcement officer, and concurrent terms on three weapons counts.

Beckett, 25, apologized to Jones' family. Beckett's father, mother, uncle, and fiancee, and 11 friends came to court to show their support.

"I know there's nothing I can say that can change the pain that they feel in their heart," Beckett told the judge.

Kenneth Jones, the victim's older brother, read victim-impact statements from his grandmother and mother, and described the loss of a young man who graduated with honors from Community College of Philadelphia and had been accepted at Drexel University.

Beckett went on trial facing the possibility of a death sentence if the jury found him guilty of first-degree murder.

Assistant District Attorney Brendan O'Malley had called the shooting an "execution" and said it was difficult to reconcile Beckett's self-defense claim with the statements of witnesses, who said Beckett stood over Jones' prone body and fired. Jones' body had eight bullet wounds, and witnesses said Beckett fired 12 shots with his .40-caliber semiautomatic pistol.

Defense lawyer Lawrence S. Krasner argued that the verdict indicated that the jury believed the self-defense claim.

Krasner touched on what he described as the other side of Jones' personality, which included arrests on drug and gun charges, and threats against Beckett, his mother, and an intellectually disabled brother.

Krasner argued that state sentencing guidelines recommended five to six years in prison for Beckett for voluntary manslaughter and that Beckett had shown growth in prison, where he had been named representative to prison staff for 800 inmates.

"There's potential here; there was always potential here," Krasner added.

215-854-2985 @joeslobo

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