School closings & delays

5 sentenced in murder of East Kentwood student

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Five teens were sentenced Wednesday afternoon in connection with the shooting death of a 17-year-old East Kentwood High School student.

James King was killed Jan. 13 near 44th Street and Kalamazoo Avenue during what investigators say was supposed to be a marijuana sale.

Five teenagers were eventually charged in King's death: Ahmed Adel Hasan, 17, Alanah Faith Claflin-Gallagos, 18, Israel Valdez, 17, Kayleb Douglas Sims, 17, and Sebastian Quinones.

The teens were sentenced Wednesday in front of Judge Joseph Rossi in Kent County's 17th Circuit Court.

Valdez received 23 to 50 years in prison on a charge of second-degree murder. He also received two years to be served consecutively for a felony firearms charge. He was given credit for 279 days of time served.

Quinones received 15 to 40 years in prison on a charge of armed robbery. He was given credit for 273 days in jail already served.

Claflin-Gallagos addressed family members in the courtroom before being sentenced. She spoke about being suicidal in the past and how that led to her getting involved with drugs.

She did not read from a paper as she spoke. At one point, King's mother said out loud while she was speaking, "he was a good kid."

Claflin-Gallagos responded "He was a very good kid."

But Rossi didn't seem to think her emotions were legitimate. He said based on what he has heard on the case, she was the one who wanted the marijuana they were trying to get.

He did speak to her briefly about how she might better herself while in prison.

She was sentenced to 10 to 40 years in prison on a charge of armed robbery, receiving credit for 280 days already served.

Sims was sentenced on a charge of assault with intent to rob while armed. Rossi said in court that Sims had struck a deal with prosecutors to cap his sentence at one year.

He agreed to follow that guideline but said Sims would also receive five years of probation, reporting directly to him. If Sims ever violates his terms, he will be sent to prison to serve at least 10 years.

Sims received credit for 265 days already served in jail.

When Hasan was brought out to be sentenced, he told the judge,  "I do have a lot to say".

He walked to the front of the courtroom and read loudly from several pieces of paper, with an almost dramatic inflection. "I wish I would have been next to your son to stop the gun from firing," he said, "the guilt I feel haunts me."

Rossi responded saying, in part, "on one hand, there are some folks here that took advantage of you pretending to be your friends ... You were just a piece of the puzzle they were trying to use to put this whole thing together."

Hasan was sentenced to just five years probation, with the first to be served in the Kent County Jail. He will also have to do 200 hours of community service. He received credit for 282 days already served.

Rossi initially brought all five suspects out into open court so they could hear several of King’s family members give victim impact statements.

King’s second cousin Tyra Williams spoke first.

“I don’t know if you know how it feels to lose a cousin who is only seven months younger than you," Williams said.

She had difficulty finishing through her tears. Family members embraced her as she made her way back to her seat.

Michaela Lauderdale, another family member of King's, told the court she thinks all of the defendants should get life in prison.

As King's aunt walked up to speak, she asked Rossi if she could face the defendants as she spoke. He gave her the go-ahead.

“This tragedy has affected so many people’s lives, including yours,” she told them. “My nephew was shot in the face and then thrown out of a car like he was a piece of trash.”

Tasha Williams, King's mother, addressed each of the teenagers individually, explaining the responsibility each had in her son's death.

She told Claflin-Gallagos, "You went to middle school with my son, you went to high school with my son. You should have known better.

Rossi also wanted to address the teens. He spoke about the story of Cane and Abel and how they each played a role in King's murder.

"I couldn’t convey the hurt his family feels any better than the victim impact statements have today. It will take me longer to sentence you today then it did for you to take James King’s life," Rossi said.

BACKGROUND ON THE CASE

Back in February, two of the teens charged in the case (Claflin-Gallagos and Hasan) testified against Valdez. They claimed that Valdez was the one who had pulled the trigger.

Claflin-Gallagos said she talked with Valdez the night before King’s murder about robbing someone for weed, but didn’t do anything that night.

She testified that Valdez messaged King on Facebook the next day to buy weed and arranged a meeting. Claflin-Gallagos said she called the robbery off and that Valdez agreed and said he had money.

Upon arriving to the meeting site, King got in a vehicle with five people.

“Israel said, ‘let me see the bag.’ It got quiet, sounded like fist fighting,” Claflin-Gallagos said. “I was about to turn my head and the gun went off.”

She said King then got pushed out of the vehicle and Valdez put the gun in a sewer nearby.

Israel Valdez's mother, Jennifer Valdez, was also initially charged with lying to an officer during the investigation. The prosecutor's office eventually dismissed the charge.

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