YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Two men convicted in February of the shooting of a man in an East Side apartment complex received the maximum sentences Tuesday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.
Brian Donlow, 29, and Stephon Hopkins, 22, were each sentenced to 21 years to life in prison by Judge Anthony D’Apolito for the June 19, 2018 shooting death of Brandon Wylie, 30, in the Plaza View apartment complex.
Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, both defendants were sentenced via video, one at a time. Their attorneys were present in the courtroom.
Of 14 people in the courtroom for both sentencings, every person was wearing a mask except the judge. The judge was practicing social-distancing guidelines. The defendants and the deputies on video also wore masks.
John Laczko, attorney for Donlow, just came out of quarantine because he had the virus and the virus also took the life of his father.
Mark Carofolo, attorney for Hopkins, said he was declared presumptive for COVID-19 after falling ill a few weeks ago.
Prosecutors never offered a motive for the killing of Wylie, but they did show jurors a video of the shooting captured by surveillance cameras at the complex, which they said showed both defendants murdering Wylie.
Wylie’s brother, Henry Wylie, addressed the court briefly when Donlow appeared on video.
“I just want them to get what they deserve,” Henry said. “It’s not fair to our family and it’s not fair to their families.”
By law, the sentence for murder is 15 to life. Both defendants also received three years for a specification that a firearm was used to commit the crime and they both received three years on the charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Both defense attorneys stressed that they view the video as inconclusive, arguments they both made in the trial.
“In our mind, there’s no evidence to show our client was there,” Carfolo said.
Hopkins and Donlow both said they would appeal. They both declined to address the court because of their pending appeals. Although at one point, Donlow blurted out that he was not there.
Judge D’Apolito said he agreed with the jury’s verdict and to see the murder on video was chilling.
“Cold hearted is what it was,” he said when he addressed Donlow. “To see the defendant shoot the victim, so easily, and without any thought, was striking to me.”
When he addressed Hopkins, the judge added when watching the shooting it appeared the two were acting with no more thought than if they were throwing away a gum wrapper.
“It was the same level of thought,” Judge D’Apolito said.
Both men are also expected to go on trial later this year for the Nov. 18, 2018 shooting death of Christopher Jackson, 21, of Warren and the wounding of another man. Jackson was found shot to death in a car on Bennington Avenue, also on the East Side.
Lorice Moore, 22, is also charged in that case.