There were neither heartfelt victim-impact statements nor pleas for leniency when Lionell Thomas, 26, was sentenced Friday morning in a St. Paul courtroom for the March 7 murder of Robert Renville and the attempted murder of two other men.
Ramsey County District Judge Salvador Rosas sentenced Thomas, also known as Lionell Thompson, to 17 years in prison, the sentence agreed upon when Thomas pleaded guilty on Oct. 10. He will be eligible for release in 11 years and four months.
Thomas admitted at his plea hearing that he and two other men sold drugs to Renville, 20, and two other men March 7 in St. Paul. The sellers later arranged to meet the buyers on Stevens between Ohio and Orleans streets to settle a disagreement over the amount of drugs delivered. It was there that Thomas shot them.
Co-defendant Lamont R. Wilson pleaded guilty in June to unintentional second-degree murder and is scheduled to be sentenced next week. Tajiddin Akbar, the third defendant, is still on the loose.
Prosecutor John Freeman told the court Friday that Thomas was "born into a culture of violence." His father was stabbed to death when Thomas was a child; he himself was shot in the head before he became a teenager.
Defense attorney Peter Dahlberg told the judge that Thomas is remorseful and also thankful that he'll be able to have a life after he is released from prison.
"He's taken steps to turn his life around," Dahlberg said, adding that Thomas has a job as a cook and is going to school.
Rosas asked, "Mr. Thomas, is there anything you want to say?"
"No," Thomas replied.
"Why did you come to Minnesota?" the judge asked.
"Why'd I come to Minnesota? For a change," Thomas said.
Rosas said he's "never had a court case of this type where there's nobody here for the victim or the defendant."
He said, "It just seems like wasted lives."
Thomas appeared in court in shackles and restraints because he'd been making threats and "acting in an aggressive manner" in the courtroom's holding cell, the judge noted at the start of the hearing.
Pat Pheifer• 651-298-1551