4 suspects in 2021 murder reach plea deal in landmark case linked to Antioch police texting scandal

The defendants are Terryonn Pugh, Eric Windom, Keyshawn McGee and Trent Allen

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Thursday, May 9, 2024
How Antioch police texting scandal impacted trial in 2021 murder
Two of the four men charged in a 2021 homicide avoided life in prison as part of plea deal due to racial bias of the officers investigating the case.

MARTINEZ, Calif. (KGO) -- Two of four murder suspects were sentenced on Wednesday in a case related to the Antioch Police Department texting scandal.

"I think in this case, this is a strong outcome. All four defendants will be facing a lengthy prison sentences," says Simon O'Connell, Chief Assistant District Attorney for Contra Costa County. "The resolution that has been struck in this matter brings accountability to this case."

This case dates back to a 2021 drive-by shooting in residential area in Antioch.

The defendants, 23-year-old Terryonn Pugh, 25-year-old Eric Windom, 25-year-old Keyshawn McGee, and 23-year-old Trent Allen, were facing murder charges, which included gun and gang enhancements along with special circumstances. Those could have led to life in prison.

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Then came an unrelated FBI investigation into police misconduct at the Antioch Police Department, which uncovered a racist texting scandal. It included officers investigating this murder case.

The defense challenged the charges under the new California Racial Justice Act, which allows for those charged with a crime to challenge it on the basis of racial bias. Bias that even the prosecution conceded to. It was up to Judge David Goldstein to decide on legal remedies to address it.

Goldstein dropped all enchantments and special circumstances.

On Monday, all four men plead no contest to manslaughter and lesser sentences, ahead of the trail that was scheduled to begin this week.

"Nobody is going to be completely happy," says defense attorney Carmela Caramagno, who represents Pugh.

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A special 14-page report issued by the D.A.'s office revealed how Pugh was singled out in the text messages. Officers even took picture of Pugh's naked backside while he was hospitalized and texted out those photos. Pugh was sentenced to 20 years in state prison in court on Wednesday.

Caramagno wouldn't comment on the plea deal, but she says there were two landmark decisions that came from this case as a result of the California Racial Justice Act.

"The first dealt with the district attorney's office in terms of disparate treatment of African-Americans in their charging decisions. And it was very important to that, that be brought to light," says Caramagno.

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The second she says deals with racial animus in policing.

"The integrity of the investigation is completely compromised, and that's what happened in this case," explains Caramagno.

Cameras were not allowed in the court, but Brandi Griffin gave a powerful statement about her son, Arnold Hawkins, who was killed in the shooting.

"There really wasn't any justice. The time that they will get is not much time," says Griffin.

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She says she read the racists text messages. She acknowledges the alleged racism within the department. But she says, for her son, there was no justice.

"This was about Arnold Hawkins. This murder is about Arnold Hawkins and they pretty much did them a favor. That's how our family feels. We paid for what the Antioch police officers did," says Griffin.

Windom was also sentenced on Wednesday, to 19 years in state prison. On Friday, Allen will be sentenced 19 years in state prison and McGee will get 13 years, 8 months.

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