By MARK TODD - firstname.lastname@example.org
Angel Brown of Dorset Township was sentenced to spend nine years in prison for hiring a friend to kill the first wife of Brown’s late husband.
The punishment handed down by Ashtabula County Common Pleas Court Judge Ronald Vettel was three years more than the sentence sought by prosecutors. “This is a serious act, and there should be a serious punishment,” Vettel said.
In August, a jury needed only two hours to find Brown guilty of two counts of conspiracy to commit aggravated murder. Prosecutors said in January 2012 she paid a man $4,000 to murder Lisa Luke of Ashtabula, a plot that fizzled when the “hitman” instead told the story to Ashtabula County Sheriff William Johnson shortly after collecting — and spending — the money.
Brown, in a trembling voice sometimes obscured by sobs, pleaded for probation, saying her 9-year-old son needed his mother. “I’ve lost my son and my life (since her arrest more than 18 months ago),” she said.
Clad in her jail uniform, Brown also indicated she was dissatisfied with the trial, saying
not all the pertinent evidence was presented.
Vettel was angered that Brown would invoke her child’s well-being in her bid for mercy.
“You should have thought of your child when this whole preposterous event started,” he said. “Your child was not your number one consideration.”
Vettel said evidence of Brown’s guilt was “overwhelming,” adding the “hitman’s” decision to visit Johnson was the only thing to prevent another murder in the area. “If not for (the man) going to the police, we might have had a homicide in this county,” he said.
Luke, the intended victim, also addressed the court, telling Vettel she has spent every day “looking over her shoulder” since learning of the plot.
“It totally devastated my life the last year and a half,” she said. “My life has been terrible. I didn’t feel safe.”
Luke said she obtained a permit to carry a handgun for self-protection, and has repeatedly dialed 911 thinking people were lurking outside her home. Luke’s son, Kolle Posey, spoke briefly, relating the toll the crime took on his mother and sister.
During the trial, jurors learned detectives used audio and video equipment to catch Brown telling the man she didn’t want to be implicated in Luke’s death. Another recording featured Brown telling the man she wanted the body to “disappear.” Brown testified the whole incident stemmed from a $150 marijuana deal wildly misinterpreted by investigators.
Prosecutors claimed Brown despised Luke and was angered that Luke’s children had to be added to a wrongful death lawsuit Brown was preparing in regards to her husband’s November 2011 traffic death.
Albert Purola, Brown’s attorney, urged probation for his client, who had no prior criminal record. Sending Brown to prison would render her 9-year-old son “an orphan,” Purola said. Probation is punishment enough, especially since no harm came to Luke, he said.
“The object of the conspiracy was not accomplished,” Purola said.
That remark outraged Ashtabula County Prosecutor Thomas Sartini, saying it was akin to stating “good try, but you didn’t kill her so we’ll put you back on the street and put you back in your home.”
Sartini said Brown displayed absolutely no remorse and accepted no responsibility for her actions. He sought a six-year sentence which would send the message that “you don’t do this type of thing.” Brown faced a maximum 11 years in prison.
Afterwards, Sartini said he was very satisfied with the sentence.
“The judge recognized how serious this case is,” he said. “It sends a message that this kind of behavior will not be accepted. It sends a good message.”
Luke, who spoke after the hearing, said she was “extremely pleased” with the sentence. “I’m so happy about the outcome,” she said.
Vettel appointed Purola to file a notice of appeal on Brown’s behalf should she decide to contest the sentence. She is also free to find another attorney for any appeals process, he said.
Purola said during the August trial he would not comment on the proceedings.