Trial opens for alleged getaway driver in local homicide

The alleged getaway driver in the East End slaying of Jamil M. Bryant is the last in the case to face court decision, as his trial began Monday.

Brandon Love, 22, of Williamsport, is fighting charges of criminal homicide, aggravated assault, two conspiracy counts and obstruction of justice for driving two others, including the man who pulled the trigger on Jamil Bryant outside of his home at 406 Anthony St. on May 11, 2015.

Bryant was shot 13 times with an assault rifle over what both the prosecution and defense agreed was an argument exploding out of a small amount of marijuana. Everyone involved in the incident knew each other in some way. Most said all of them except the victim and the gunman were friends.

First Assistant District Attorney Martin Wade said he expects the prosecution to spend three days calling witnesses and outlining of Love’s role in the murder. Love’s trial is expected to last as long as a week.

Love was allegedly driving Cosme Berrones and Terrance X. Perez that night, combing the city’s East End for Jamil Bryant after an all-day argument that began over $20 worth of marijuana.

Wade said the evidence shows that Love was driving the car, but also that he intended for Jamil Bryant to be killed and helped Perez do it.

Love’s attorney, Christian A. Lovecchio, described the incident as a tragedy that happened between a group of friends. But he urged jurors to look closely throughout the week at the arguments leading up to the shooting to prove that there’s no reason to believe that either Love or Berrones knew what Perez was intending to do.

“Focus on what was said,” Lovecchio said. “There must be proof of an agreement … there’s no way they (Love and Berrones) knew the shooter was going to shoot Jamil Bryant 13 times … no proof showing they knew he was planning to kill him.”

Bryant’s older brother, Evan Bryant, was in his room on the third floor of the Anthony Street double home when he heard the scattered shots on the street below just after 10:30 p.m. When he went to the window, he saw his brother lying under a streetlight.

After calling 911, Evan Bryant tried to call Love, but texted him instead. The text read: “You just shot my lil’ brother.”

Evan Bryant said he contacted Love after spending most of the afternoon trying to disable a quickly escalating argument between Love and Jamil Bryant.

Jamil Bryant shorted Rory Herbert, 23, of Williamsport, $20 worth of weed, both Evan Bryant and Herbert said Monday.

After exchanging a few punches, Herbert said the two made up that evening, but only after Herbert told Love, his cousin, about the problem, he said.

“We settled it,” Herbert said. “We decided $20 was petty and wasn’t worth our friendship.”

Although the source of the tragedy was resolved, where Herbert and Jamil Bryant’s fight ends is where the other begins.

Berrones, only 19 at the time, said Love came to his apartment on Third Avenue with Perez. Love was acting upset.

Text messages showing the exchange of threats between Jamil Bryant and Love were shown in court. At some point, Perez jumped into the argument.

“Later in the day they (Love, Perez and Jamil Bryant) were talking about shooting each other,” Berrones said.

The big piece of Berrones’ testimony Monday was whether or not he heard Perez explicitly say he was going to kill Jamil Bryant.

Berrones said he drove Perez to get the AR-15 style rifle from a storage locker and was there when Love said he’d drive to find Jamil Bryant. Berrones said both he and Love saw the rifle in his apartment.

During cross-examination, Berrones said he never heard Perez say it, but rather assumed it based on the argument he heard.

Wade then went back and pointed out specific times Berrones told police and testified to hearing Perez talk about shooting Jamil Bryant.

A jury found Perez, 23, guilty of first-degree murder. He was sentenced immediately to life in a state prison on Nov. 2, 2016.

Berrones, 22, also of Williamsport, already admitted to being there that night in the passenger seat.

He pleaded guilty to a third-degree homicide charge in October of 2016 in exchange for his testimony in both Perez and Love’s trials. He said during testimony Monday that he accepted a deal for 12 to 25 years in prison.