There was a lot of talk about choices when Joshua Hanes was sentenced Thursday for his role in the shooting death last summer of man near the Xcel Energy Center in downtown St. Paul.

Hanes "made a choice to hang out with Antonio Thelen," who was convicted last month of second-degree murder in the death of Sean D. Gibbs, prosecutor Dan Vlieger said. Hanes "was in the wrong place at the wrong time," the prosecutor said, and initially made a choice to help conceal the crime.

But it was Hanes' testimony at Thelen's trial that helped the jury reach its guilty verdict, Vlieger added.

Hanes, 19, was given up to 20 years of probation with several conditions Thursday for his earlier guilty plea to aiding an offender after the fact. He had agreed to testify in exchange for being conditionally released until his sentencing.

Ramsey County District Judge J. Thomas Mott also stayed a 23-month sentence and gave Hanes credit for 226 days he has already served in jail.

Gibbs, 21, was fatally shot early Aug. 18. He and his girlfriend had driven by a house in the 200 block of Forbes Avenue in St. Paul, where Thelen and his friends were partying.

Hanes, who'd been hanging out with them all night, said he was asleep in the passenger seat of a friend's convertible when Thelen hopped in and followed the car Gibbs in which was riding.

Thelen and Gibbs exchanged angry words at a red light at Smith Avenue and Kellogg Boulevard. All three men got out of the vehicles and Gibbs was shot.

Gibbs' mother, Beatrice Brown, had asked Mott to sentence Hanes to "the same amount of time as Antonio Thelen," who is facing at least 25 years in prison.

"He already knew what kind of people he was hanging out with, and I do not believe he did not know what was going down," Brown said of Hanes.

"That was my best friend, my only son," she said. "I will never get to have him back ever again. I can't sleep. I can't eat. I have nightmares. And I miss my son.

"And I think it's unfair to put him on probation and let him back out in society to do something else."

Defense attorney Patricia Hughes told Mott that Hanes and his family have received numerous threats and "are scared for their lives."

"It's evident Mr. Hanes is remorseful for what happened," Hughes said. "And he does want to change his life. It's very clear he made some really bad decisions about his life. But people do change. And he's young enough, your honor, that I do believe he wants to change and will change."

Before the sentencing hearing began Thursday, Gibbs' stepfather rose to step out of the courtroom but paused and loudly berated Hanes and his family, who were sitting in a back row.

He was quickly led out by sheriff's deputies.

Pat Pheifer • 651-298-1551