Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Reputed gang leader fights death possibility

FORT MYERS: Kemar Johnston’s attorney asked a Fort Myers judge Tuesday to rule out the death penalty in a double murder case.

Johnston is pegged as the ring leader of the so-called Cash Feenz gang. He's accused, along with other members, of kidnapping, torturing and killing Cape Coral teens Jeffery and Alex Sosa, last year.

Prosecutors say he organized the crime.

But Johnston’s attorney, David Brenner, argued the death penalty would be unconstitutional under current Florida sentencing laws.

Johnston sat quietly in court on Tuesday morning as his Brenner made two points to the judge.

First, he claimed that Johnston didn't have an attorney before and soon after the arraignment - times when plea deals could have been negotiated.

Brenner also tried to convince the judge that the Cash Feenz are a musical group - not a street gang - so the crime should not be classified as gang violence.

The judge agreed to consider the motions, but didn't say when he would make a ruling.

Last month, Johnston’s girlfriend Ashley Toye - who is pregnant with his baby - took the stand. She described Johnston as violent and abusive, and said he forced her to participate in the crime.

But a jury convicted her and the judge sentenced Toye to two life sentences, to run concurrently, for her role in the killings.

Seven suspects, all Cash Feenz members, including Johnston will be tried in the coming months.

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