A reputed gang member who romanced a St. Paul police officer the same year he participated in multiple drive-by shootings was sentenced Wednesday in two criminal cases against him.
Ramone D. Smaller, 22, was sentenced in Ramsey County District Court for three drive-by shootings in St. Paul in late 2013, and for dumping a gun allegedly used to kill a St. Paul man in 2012.
Smaller is already serving six years in prison for a previous conviction of third-degree attempted murder. He was expected to be released from the Minnesota Department of Corrections in that case in 2018, but with the additional sentences added Wednesday, that has been pushed back to 2023.
A jury convicted Smaller in February of all 10 felony counts against him in the drive-by shootings, including multiple counts of aiding and abetting crime committed for the benefit of a gang, aiding and abetting assault and aiding and abetting drive-by shooting.
He pleaded guilty in April to aiding an offender by ditching a rifle that police believe was used to kill Leonard Christian Sr. in March 2012.
The drive-by shootings and murder are not related, but were joined into one sentencing hearing Wednesday.
"I feel that I have done a tremendous hurt to the community…," Smaller told the court Wednesday. "I'm looking forward to changing my life. I'm pretty much exhausted by everything."
Smaller said that he was "childish" and "impulsive" when he committed the crimes in his youth.
Ramsey County District Judge Joy Bartscher said she appreciated his comments, but said his juvenile record and adult criminal history showed a lack of understanding.
"You're a bright guy," Bartscher said, "but I think it's really, really a tragedy. I mean, your dad was killed by gunfire."
The judge said that his juvenile record involved guns and gangs.
"You just were kind of blind to it," she said of the impact his crimes had on victims.
Before Bartscher sentenced Smaller in the Christian case, Christian's sister gave a victim-impact statement.
"I miss my brother every day," said Janet Christian. "I can't get that night out of my mind."
Janet Christian said that her brother was an innocent man who wasn't involved with risky activity. Authorities believe his son may have been the intended target.
Smaller apologized to the Christian family, which he grew up with.
"I completely have remorse, concern…," Smaller said. "Like you said, Lenny Christian was innocent. He was a good man."
Bartscher told Smaller that she was familiar with the Christian family because she represented several of them years ago.
"I hope that you're sincere, OK?" Bartscher said. "Young men like you, although they're raised OK, they don't value life.
"Every time you shoot [a gun], you risk killing somebody. Guns are only made for one reason, and that's to kill people."
In the Christian case, Bartscher sentenced Smaller to a little over 5 1/2 years in prison to be served concurrently with the six years he's already serving.
In the drive-by shootings, Bartscher handed down a sentence for three of the 10 convictions: 7 1/2 years in prison to run concurrent with his current six-year term, three years in prison to run after the 7 1/2-year term, and a second three-year term to be served after he completes the first two sentences in the drive-by case.
Smaller was dating then-St. Paul police officer Ruby Diaz when he was involved in the drive-by shootings. Diaz, 39, first met Smaller when she was a school resource officer and he was a student. The two started dating when he turned 21.
Diaz was tried and convicted last December of using her best friend's identity to wire Smaller money in prison. She admitted to renting him a car that was used in the drive-by shootings. Diaz was fired from the department after her conviction.