First of murder defendants sentencedHis judgment clouded by marijuana, his friends drawn from a bad crowd, Julian Stephan Smith became part of something he repeatedly was told to avoid, his mother said.
By: Mike Longaecker, The Republican Eagle
His judgment clouded by marijuana, his friends drawn from a bad crowd, Julian Stephan Smith became part of something he repeatedly was told to avoid, his mother said.
“I know my son regrets his involvement,” Zumbrota resident Rita Smith said Wednesday after her son was sentenced for his role in the Jan. 20 murder of Luis Orlando Galicia Mijangos. “He is quite sorry for what happened.”
A plea agreement reached between attorneys calls for Julian Smith, 16, to spend up to five years at Minnesota Correctional Facility-Red Wing. If released from custody before the five years are up, he will remain under Department of Corrections and Goodhue County Court Services supervision for the remainder of the time.
Julian Smith could go to prison for 15 years if he violates the terms of his court supervision.
He was sentenced for second-degree unintentional homicide. All other charges were dropped by First District Court Judge Kevin Mark.
In return for the softened sentence — the teen was initially charged with second-degree murder — he has agreed to provide truthful testimony in the case, which has led to four first-degree murder indictments.
“You got a tremendous break here,” Mark said while sentencing Smith. “Now it’s a matter of what you do with it.”
Mark’s comments painted a cautiously optimistic picture for the teenager’s future, one that will provide the tools for him to turn his life around, the judge said.
But Mark warned Julian Smith not to take a cavalier attitude with him into the corrections system. If he doesn’t break from a history of what Mark said included assault, disorderly conduct and shoplifting, he said, “I don’t know how long your life will last.”
Rita Smith said that while her son was not completely innocent in the case, he got “caught up in a mess with a bunch of kids that he shouldn’t have.”
Police found Mijangos shot in the chest inside a stopped vehicle just after midnight Jan. 20 in an alley off North Park Street. He was pronounced dead after being taken to Fairview-Red Wing Medical Center.
By the end of that day, authorities had arrested three suspects, including Julian Smith.
During testimony last month, the 16-year-old confessed to arranging the meeting between his group and Mijangos. The meeting was supposed to be a robbery, Julian Smith said, but turned into a murder when one person in the group pulled a gun, pressed it to Mijangos’ chest and shot him.
The alleged shooter, 19-year-old Marvin Todd Griffith, was not part of the group Julian Smith generally associated with, his mother said.
The other alleged accomplice, 19-year-old William Jamar Lawton, “is
the schemer,” Rita Smith said.
Griffith and Lawton both face life in prison, if convicted, along with two women — one who allegedly disposed of the murder weapon, the other who allegedly aided and abetted Griffith.
All four have been indicted on first-degree murder charges.
Rita Smith said she moved her family to Red Wing from Chicago about 10 years ago. Her son’s Red Wing friends were “a group of kids searching to be rappers,” she said.
Julian Smith was profiled by the R-E in February 2006 as part of a Bay City video project he starred in, rapping about the potential ills of methamphetamine use.
“Don’t touch it,” Julian Smith, then 14, said in a 2006 interview.
But marijuana use did become part of his lifestyle as a form of self-medication, his mother said.
Rita Smith said she harbors no guilt for her son’s role in the murder, nor does she fear that he will be the target of retribution for his cooperation with prosecutors.
Her comments took the place of her son’s; he was silent when Mark asked if he had anything to say before sentencing.
Julian Smith’s conviction sets the stage for what could mean a trip to the witness stand. Goodhue County Attorney Stephen Betcher declined to describe the youth as a star witness, saying “this is an evidence-based prosecution.”
Still, he said Julian Smith’s cooperation will play an important role.
“Alleged eyewitness testimony is always critical,” Betcher said.