A Los Angeles musician was sentenced in Sonoma County Superior Court this morning to one year in county jail and five years’ probation for the fatal stabbing of a Sebastopol man in Guerneville in July. Kevin Payne Jr., 22, pleaded guilty last month to the voluntary manslaughter of Elijah Lockhart, 31, on a footbridge over the Russian River on July 6.
Deputy District Attorney Brian Staebell said Lockhart was following Payne and a group of his friends and asked them for drugs. When they refused, Staebell said, Lockhart became belligerent, made racial comments and took off his shirt. Payne had broken away from the group at one point, but when his friends called for his help, he got a knife from James Larry Lewis Jr. and returned to the bridge, where he stabbed Lockhart once in the chest.
Lockhart died in an ambulance on the way to the hospital. Lewis, 35, of Guerneville, pleaded guilty to being an accessory to the murder and will be sentenced Jan. 4. Both men were initially charged with murder.”The easiest thing to do in a case like this is to send Mr. Payne to prison,” Judge Robert LaForge said at the beginning of the sentencing hearing.
“At the end of the day, no one would lose any sleep over this.” The Sonoma County Probation Department recommended the maximum11-year term, but Assistant Public Defender Kathleen Pozzi argued for probation. She said Payne thought his friends were in danger and came to their defense. “(Payne) could have been the victim and Mr. Lockhart the defendant,” Pozzi said.”He asked for the knife to keep Lockhart at bay,” Pozzi said. Staebell acknowledged that Lockhart, a parolee, “engaged in conduct that was provoking.
” “(Lockhart) made racial statements that were very inflammatory, but it was an unlawful homicide,” Staebell said. Payne is black and Lockhart was white. Staebell said Payne’s mistake was arming himself and returning to the bridge. Lockhart’s provocation, however, made the slaying voluntary manslaughter, rather than first- or second-degree murder, and Staebell described the crime as an “imperfect self-defense” case. He agreed with Pozzi that Lockhart was the initiator of and a willing participant in the confrontation.
He said a three-year prison term would be appropriate.”I have a hard time wrapping my mind around probation when someone was killed,” Staebell said. Payne was involved in two fights during a visit to Sonoma County a year before the slaying. Both were misdemeanor offenses and might be dismissed, Staebell said.Payne’s parents and eight of his nine siblings attended the sentencing.
His father, Kevin Payne Sr., a preacher and former boxer, told LaForge he taught his son to defend himself but to never be a bully or take advantage of someone less fortunate. “I wish to God I taught him to walk away. That was my main mistake in rearing him,” he said. LaForge sentenced Payne to a suspended six-year prison term, the county jail time and probation. He said he agrees with Pozzi that Payne could have been the victim instead.
“The unfortunate consequence is you got a knife, but self-defense is a real issue. It’s a close call,” LaForge said. “Based on the facts and the support you have received, I will give you an opportunity to succeed on probation,” LaForge said. He warned Payne that if he violates his probation, he will serve the six years in prison.Pozzi said that with credit for time already served in the county jail, Payne will serve 77 days of his one-year term.LaForge granted her request for Payne to serve his probation in San Bernardino County.
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