Asialeena Sapp, one of the central figures in the January murder of Joshua Smith, pled guilty to manslaughter August 2 in Jones County Superior Court. The plea was accepted by Superior Court Judge Hulane George and the defendant was sentenced to 20 years with four to serve.
The 16 remaining years may be served on probation, and Sapp was allowed to plea as a first offender. She was also given credit for time served since her arrest in January.
Assistant District Attorney Gregory Bushway told the court that Sapp and her partners caused the death of Smith. He said she got into a Ford Expedition with nine others with the purpose of retrieving her clothing from Tommy Cornelius after the couple separated.
“The only thing actually found in the home belonging to Asialeena Sapp was a fast food uniform,” Bushway said.
The prosecutor said Smith came to the aid of Cornelius when a fight occurred, and the victim was shot by Darian Bryant. Smith later died of the gunshot wound.
Bushway said Sapp was not only in the Expedition but gave the driver directions to the residence of Smith and Cornelius. The vehicle was stopped by a Jones County deputy minutes after the shooting was reported, and its 10 occupants were taken into custody.
Ironically, as Sapp was entering her plea in courtroom A of Jones County Superior Court, Cornelius was across the hall in courtroom B having his probation revoked.
During the plea hearing, Sapp’s attorney, John Newberry, asked to have the fact that Sapp called Cornelius the night of the shooting to warn him that her brothers were coming and not to come out of his house when the Expedition arrived entered into the court record.
When given the opportunity to speak on her own behalf, Sapp, wiping tears from her face, simply said she apologized.
The defendant’s comments, however, appeared to be a catalyst for the outburst of a woman who until then was sitting quietly in the courtroom.
“Apologize to his child,” the woman said to Sapp. “Apologize to his child who has to grow up without a father.”
The outspoken woman was quickly escorted from the courtroom and was later identified as the maternal grandmother of Joshua Smith’s daughter.
Sapp began sobbing uncontrollably after the outburst while repeating, “I’m so sorry. Please forgive me. I’m so sorry.” The defendant was also taken from the courtroom.
“You can cut the sadness in the air of this courtroom,” George remarked.
George accepted voluntary manslaughter pleas of defendants Sidney Sapp, Alonzo Sapp, Areon Outlaw and Naomi Johnson July 30. Navon C. Johnson pled guilty to manslaughter July 12 and Devondra Williams June 15.
Bryant, the alleged shooter, and Demario Sanders, who allegedly supplied the gun to Bryant, are the two remaining defendants in the trial, which is scheduled to begin Aug. 27.
Following Sapp’s plea, the judge heard pretrial motions from the attorneys for Bryant and Sanders.
George denied the request of the defense to suppress a video showing the traffic stop of the Expedition, but she granted the motion to sever the defendants, which means the state will prosecute Sanders and Bryant separately. Bushway told George that he will let the court know Aug. 10 which defendant will be tried first.
The final item on the court calendar concerning the murder trial was a bond request by Sanders, which was denied. George said she will reconsider the request Aug. 21.