General Crime

* Joseph Blacknell III, Richmond Gangster Sentenced to Life for 2009 Murder of Marcus Russell and Shooting Spree

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A notorious Richmond gangster was sentenced to 204 years and eight months to life in prison today for fatally shooting a 21-year-old local rap artist and wounding seven others in a 2009 crime spree that rocked Richmond. Joseph Blacknell III, 21, received the sentence in Contra Costa County Superior Court this afternoon for the fatal drive-by shooting of Marcus Russell on March 10, 2009 and for multiple shootings and carjackings in the summer and fall of 2009.

A jury in March found Blacknell guilty on 20 felony counts, all but one of which carried enhancements for use of a personal firearm and membership in a criminal street gang, according to Deputy District Attorney Derek Butts. Judge Thomas M. Maddock handed down the sentence after hearing from eight of the defendant’s friends and family members, and from Russell’s sister, Butts said. Russell was driving with his girlfriend along eastbound state Highway 580 the afternoon of March 10, 2009 when Blacknell fired 11 rounds at him from a van that pulled up alongside Russell’s car, according to the prosecutor.

The defendant struck and killed Russell and also hit the victim’s girlfriend, who survived and testified against Blacknell in court earlier this year. Also known by his street name, “Fatter”, Blacknell went on a shooting spree on Sept. 13, shooting at six people and hitting four of them in four separate instances, according to Butts. Then 19, the young Richmond man was already known as a leader within south Richmond’s Easter Hill Boys gang.

“His overall sentence will make a difference because he’ll never be released,” Butts said. “Were he to be released, I think he’d be a danger to the community.” During the trial, defense attorney Diana Garrido argued that although Blacknell has a lengthy criminal history, there was insufficient evidence to convict him for the fatal drive-by shooting and the Sept. 13 shootings. During opening statements, Garrido suggested that Russell’s girlfriend implicated Blacknell as the shooter only after others in the community speculated she might be involved with her boyfriend’s death.

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