Jury: Shooter guilty
By Michael Prochaska
A Madison man was found guilty Wednesday, June 27, of two counts of aggravated assault, one count of possession of a firearm during a commission of a crime and four counts of obstruction of justice following a two-day jury trial before Morgan County Superior Court Judge William Prior.
Sirderreius Aquan Hodnett, 19, received two 20-year sentences in confinement to run concurrently, and a five-year probate sentence.
Hodnett was arrested in August 2010 in connection with the shooting of then-22-year-old Rydrell Demond Revere. Revere was shot in his back at a Waffle House parking lot July 18 of the same year.
According to reports, Revere walked to the parking lot of the Waffle House after his ex-girlfriend, Courtney Williams, engaged in a fight with a Hodnett.
Hodnett pulled a 9 mm pistol, according to reports, and shot Revere in the back after less than two minutes of confrontation slightly before 4 a.m.
Revere was stabilized at Morgan Memorial Hospital immediately after being shot and was then transported to Athens Regional Hospital. Reports state that when officers arrived, about 15 people were in the parking lot.
“It was utter chaos,” said Madison Police Officer Matt Strange during testimony.
Witnesses to the altercation testified Tuesday, though most admitted to testifying only because they had been subpoenaed.
Lt. Dietrich Roland and Deputy Harvey Stewart of the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office testified that Hodnett fled the scene of a Turner Road residence when four law enforcement officers attempted to serve him with an arrest warrant in August 2010. Hodnett was arrested after a nearly two-hour search in a wooded area off Turner Road.
Madison Police Investigator Wesley Thompson testified to the initial law enforcement response at the scene of the crime.
Thompson said Hodnett had fled the scene and that a dispute between he and Williams was not documented until later interviews with witnesses.
Thompson testified he was called to Waffle House around 4:20 and, upon arrival, took photographs of torn clothing; torn jewelry; a bra; a white, Nike Air Jordan; 9 mm shell casings; and bloodstains on the parking lot.
Thompson said law enforcement searched for a firearm but could not recover one from the scene. A weapon has still not been recovered in the shooting, Thompson said.
Regardless, a video surveillance camera mounted on the exterior wall of the Waffle House was submitted into evidence and shown to jurors Wednesday. The video captured the altercation.
Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney Alison Burleson asked Thompson to identify the defendant, victim and witnesses as he played the video frame-by-frame.
Surveillance video sans audio was also shown of Hodnetts and various witnesses prior to the incident while they were still inside the Waffle House. Hodnett and Williams are seen leaving the restaurant. Revere never entered the restaurant.
Hodnett testified after the video was submitted into evidence, admitting he shot Revere in the back because he was scared for his life.
In his testimony, Hodnett claimed he acted under self-defense because Revere had made threatening comments, such as, “you better watch your back.”
Burleson asked why he never reported the threats to the police or told the police he was acting under self-defense prior to a criminal trial.
Hodnett told Burleson that he didn’t feel it necessary to tell the police that he was being threatened because "I took care of it myself." Minutes later, Hodnett amended his statement, saying that he told his lawyer to tell police he was acting under self-defense.
“That’s what I paid my lawyer for – to do that,” he said.
Burleson questioned why Hodnett felt it necessary to use excessive force in defending himself, asking if he knew at the time of the incident whether Revere had died as a result of the shooting and assault.
“How could he be dead?” Hodnett answered. “I shot him in the back.”
During her closing argument, Burleson told members of the jury that it was sheer luck Revere did not die and that others were not injured in the crossfire.
She said his plead of not guilty by reason of self defense was not validated by the testimony of witnesses, who, she said, played down the aggressiveness of the physical confrontation before Revere was shot.
A witness, referred to the confrontation as “wrestling,” Burleson reminded jurors.
“You don’t get to bring a gun to fist fight,” she said. “That’s evidence of being angry. That’s evidence of ‘I’ll show you …. This is not self-defense. He got whipped, he got mad and he got even.”
“Is that the community you want to live in?” Burleson asked jurors. “This case is about our community as well and what we’re going to expect in it.”
The jury deliberated for less than hour before reaching a verdict of guilty on all seven charges.
Hodnett’s lawyer, Brian Whiteside, asked Judge Prior to delay sentencing until Hodnett’s mother could speak on her son’s behalf. Judge Prior denied that request. He also asked for minimum sentencing, while Burleson requested the maximum of 49 years.
Burleson referenced a pending criminal case against Hodnett for allegedly shooting his father in the back with a .12 gauge shotgun and fleeing the scene with the firearm last year.
The Morgan County Sheriff’s Office subsequently offered a $1,000 reward for information leading to his arrest, but Hodnett eventually turned himself in to authorities.
“He just doesn’t care,” Burleson said. “He doesn’t care who he hurts.”
Morgan County Citizen Editor Patrick Yost contributed to this story.
Printed in the July 5, 2012 edition