Verdict near in trial for alleged getaway driver of fatal shooting

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Brandon Love, 22, of the city, is escorted by the sheriff’s deputies following day three of his homicide trial at the Lycoming County Courthouse Thursday.

A jury in Lycoming County Court will have the entire day today to decide whether Brandon Love knew his backseat passenger almost three years ago was going to pull the trigger of an assault rifle aimed at Jamil M. Bryant 17 times. Thirteen of those rounds hit Bryant in the head, torso, hand and thigh, causing him to fall to the pavement of the narrow street outside of his East End home on May 11, 2015. He was pronounced dead not long after.

Love, 22, of Williamsport, was charged with criminal homicide, aggravated assault,

two conspiracy counts and obstruction of justice for his role in the fatal shooting of Bryant, which occurred outside of 406 Anthony St.

Love doesn’t deny driving Terrance X. Perez, 23, and Cosme Berrones, 22, both of Williamsport, that night. But what his attorney, Christian A. Lovecchio, has been arguing throughout Love’s three-day trial is that there’s no evidence proving that Love conspired with Perez to kill Bryant.

Evidence consisting of text message conversations and testimony throughout the week traced an argument between Love and Bryant that careened out of control over a number of hours.

The argument all began after Love’s cousin, Rory Herbert, told him about a fight between Herbert and Bryant over $20 worth of marijuana that Bryant had shorted Herbert.

The texts became more serious as time went on, rising to talk of bounty hits. “I put a check on ya head,” one text from Bryant to Love read.

Perez joined the argument and introduced a revolver into the volatile argument. With no bullets and Love unwilling to go get them, Berrones said he drove Perez to a storage locker in the city to get the .22-caliber Smith and Wesson M&P that was used to gun down Bryant hours later.

Before Perez left to get into Love’s car, Perez was cited as saying “Let’s do this.”

Both the prosecution and defense rested Thursday.

Lovecchio asked President Judge Nancy L. Butts for an acquittal based on the circumstantial evidence that he said failed to prove enough to go to a jury to decide.

“There’s absolutely no evidence of a discussion to harm Bryant in any way,” Lovecchio said.

Butts denied the motion, saying that conspiracies often aren’t spoken.

During his closing argument, Lovecchio said there wasn’t a shred of evidence that showed the three talked about a plan to kill Bryant.

“He (Love) wouldn’t even go get bullets for Perez,” Lovecchio said explaining the reason Perez had to go get the assault rifle. “When Perez says ‘Let’s do this,’ “ Lovecchio said, revisiting one of the pivotal quotes of the trial, “we don’t know what ‘this’ is. Where is the evidence showing what ‘this’ is? Brandon (Love)’s ‘this’ was going to sell weed while Terrance (Perez) did what he was planning to do.”

According to the theory the prosecution was pursuing, there doesn’t need to be an agreement between the three men needed to convict Love, First Assistant District Attorney Martin Wade said. In order to fulfill the “accomplice liability theory,” Wade would only have to prove that Love was willing to help, did help and had the same intent for an end result.

While wrapping up his argument, Wade revisited a lot of the evidence regarding Love’s involvement.

The loaning of his vehicle twice, waiting for the shooter and picking the shooter up formed the basic outline of Love’s culpability, Wade said.

“You can’t walk across the city of Williamsport with a huge rifle,” Wade said holding the AR-15 style gun up to the jury. “Without the chauffeur, the driver, this couldn’t have happened. Love was incredibly important for the homicide to succeed.”

With many red flags pointing to Perez’ homicidal intent, Love had many opportunities to stop it, Wade said. “He (Love) never turns away. He’s all in for this shooting.”

Perez was sentenced to life in prison after a jury found him guilty of pulling the trigger on Nov. 2, 2016.

Berrones pleaded guilty to third-degree homicide in exchange for 12 to 25 years in state prison. He testified in both Perez and Love’s trials and will be sentenced at a later date.

The jury was sent to deliberate this morning and is expected to reach a verdict by the end of the day.