Man gets jail time for evidence tampering in Leon Bennett case

Jose Lebron was sentenced to 12 months with credit for 226 days served

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jacksonville man was sentenced to jail time Thursday for his role in getting rid of a car involved in the shooting death of 23-year-old Leon Bennett.

Jose Lebron, 29, received 12 months in jail with credit for 226 days served after pleading guilty to evidence tampering. Adjudication of guilt was withheld, meaning he will not be a convicted felon.

The jail sentence will be followed by two years' probation. Lebron was also ordered to have no contact with Bennett's family, to pay $516 in court costs and to submit to random drug screenings.

"I'm not pleased with (the sentence)," Bennett's mother, Rhonda Kelly, said after Thursday's sentencing hearing. "I do believe that he should have been charged with more than what he was charged with."

Lebron is one of two men charged in the case, though neither has been charged with Bennett’s murder. He was driving a vehicle involved in the 2018 shooting that was found abandoned in central Florida.

He and co-defendant Shaquille Walker surrendered to Hawaiian authorities in July 2018 after warrants were issued for their arrest. They had caught a flight to Hawaii after ditching the car in Volusia County.

Bennett was shot during a brawl with a group of men, including Lebron and co-defendant Shaquille Walker, which unfolded about 2:30 a.m. June 24 near the Jacksonville Beach bars. He later died.

A witness said the fight began because someone hit on Bennett’s girlfriend, court records show. Both sides separated, but the witness said Bennett was later shot while trying to wrestle Walker out of a car.

Bennett's friends and family have a hard time believing that version of events. It just doesn't sound like the man they knew and loved.

"I honestly don't feel that he would've been any type of aggressor if they would not have come to where he was," Kelly said. "He was trying to protect not only himself, but his girlfriend and her friend."

"I never, ever would imagine Leon being the person to go and ... fight these people and force them to shoot him," said cousin Dashawn Harris. "They followed him and made him have to defend himself."

While Lebron originally faced up to five years in prison, that sentence was reduced to a maximum term of 12 months as part of a plea agreement his defense reached with the State Attorney’s Office.

Court records show Walker’s case is still pending. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of evidence tampering and carrying a concealed weapon in connection with the case.

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