SEBRING — Freddie Leneal Washington, 26, of Pahokee, has received life without parole for his first-degree murder conviction.
He also has been ordered to serve life for robbery with a firearm, five years for aggravated assault with a firearm, and five years for tampering with evidence.
On May 21, a jury found him guilty in the Oct. 9, 2016 shooting death of 26-year-old Aaron Hankerson outside the former Shooters nightclub in Sebring Square shopping plaza.
The murder charge carries a mandatory life sentence without parole, because the jury found that he had a firearm at the time of the incident, discharged the firearm and fired that gun resulting in Hankerson’s death.
Circuit Court Judge Peter Estrada last Friday also sentenced Washington to pay a $2,000 fine for the robbery conviction and 25 years minimum in prison, a $1,000 fine and $50 surcharge for the assault conviction, and a $500 fine and $25 surcharge for the tampering conviction.
His attorney, Peter Brewer, immediately filed an appeal on Washington’s behalf with the Second District Court of Appeal.
Right now that appeal is wrapped up in paperwork at the appellate level. Washington was determined in 2017 to be indigent for purposes of his trial, but the appellate court said that’s too long ago to have the same status on appeal.
The appellate court has instructed Brewer to pay the filing fee within 20 days of this past Monday, July 8.
Brewer contends that Washington did not receive a fair trial because Estrada denied the following:
• Motion on Aug. 31, 2018, to suppress the identification of Washington by the prosecution’s key eyewitness.
• Motions on Feb. 19 and March 1 to exclude the .22-caliber revolver from evidence.
• Motion on April 11 to dismiss for alleged due process violation.
• Motion on June 26 for a new trial based on the above concerns.
After four-and-a-half hours of deliberation, a jury unanimously found Washington guilty of all four counts.
His co-defendant, 30-year-old Daryl Dennard Cason, also of Pahokee, has a pretrial conference on Aug. 21.
Both men asked to suppress the testimony of the initial eyewitness on the contention that she identified them on the instruction of law enforcement.
At Washington’s trial, the witness said, as she and Hankerson walked through the parking lot that night, she saw the two men — later identified as Washington and Cason — approach on foot.
When they got within 12 feet, they started shooting, she said.
She said after Hankerson fell to the ground, they kept shooting, almost standing over him, then started taking everything out of his pockets, including money and a cell phone.
They backed away, at which point she rolled Hankerson on his side, trying to talk to him, while he was bleeding from “everywhere,” according to arrest reports.
Allegedly, the shooters came back, cursed at her and told her to move “before I put you next to his cousin,” pointing a handgun at her face.
The woman told police she was afraid and put up her hands, backing away.
Brewer contends that her description to police was not accurate to their appearance that night.
Allegedly, she told police she was “200 percent” sure Cason and Washington were the shooters.
Brewer contends that her testimony identified the wrong men.
Prosecutors at trial said she gave the best description she could with a gun in her face.
Assistant State Attorney Steve Houchin said the witness correctly identified the car in which the shooters left, the same silver Ford Crown Victoria that police stopped on Sebring Parkway, and from which police saw someone toss out a bag and other objects.
One of those objects turned out to be a 9mm pistol, Houchin said.
Brewer had also taken issue with a lack of conclusive forensic evidence on the gun or bag, on the $140 allegedly taken from Hankerson or even on the suspects’ clothes, that he said did not have blood on them.
Houchin said key evidence did match up, like the shell casings at the scene that matched the 9mm handgun tossed from the car.