JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Two Jacksonville brothers convicted on multiple drug charges learned their fate in court on Wednesday when a judge handed down a 30-year sentence.
Rashad Johnson, 32, and his brother, Marquez Johnson, 35, were arrested last year, tried in court together and found guilty.
The drug charges they were convicted of had gang enhancements because the brothers were identified as the leaders of the 1200 Out East Gang.
Prior to the sentencing, relatives of the brothers pleaded with the judge to be lenient. But the prosecutor argued that both brothers had been given multiple chances to turn their lives around.
One by one, relatives of Rashad and Marquez Johnson testified before Judge R. Anthony Salem. They were hoping their testimony would persuade the judge to hand down a lighter sentence after the Johnson brothers were convicted on multiple counts of drug trafficking, drug possession,and drug conspiracy charges.
“I often think about things I could have done differently as a parent. I know my sons could have had a better outcome in life,” their parent said.
At one point, both brothers addressed the judge and asked for leniency.
“I don’t know what kind of sentence, but I would ask that you be lenient towards me. I have a beautiful family which includes four kids and a stepchild,” Rashad Johnson said. “I am not a bad person. I am not a monster. I’m not a gang member. Just a human being who made mistakes.”
“I am not labeled as a menace, an animal, a gang member in my community or anywhere else,” Marquez Johnson said. “And I just want to say I’m sorry to my family for putting them through this situation and letting them down.
After their testimony, Assistant State Attorney Lauren Anderson reminded the judge why he should impose a 30-year prison sentence the state was asking for.
“They had the opportunity to better their lives after serving three years in the Florida state prison. They came back out and continued doing the same pattern of criminal activity that they had been so many times before. They even moved out of their community. But instead of staying out of their community and getting jobs, the court has heard nothing from any of these witnesses about the legal jobs they had. They provided financially for their family, but how did they do that? By selling drugs,” Anderson said.
Then both brothers stood before the judge to learn their punishment.
“You are adjudicated guilty and sentenced to 30 years in the Florida state prison with 581 days of credit,” Judge Salem said.
As the brothers were being led away, Rashad turned to his family and waved goodbye.
State Attorney Melissa Nelson addressed the fact that both men were involved in gang activity that was tied to the distribution of illegal drugs on Jacksonville’s streets.
“These two men didn’t take that different path. They didn’t take the chances afforded to them. They made a different choice,” Nelson said.
Both men were eligible for life sentences after being on the drug trafficking charges alone, but prosecutors felt 30 years was more appropriate.