Shaun O. Harrison, the former English High School dean who was known as an antiviolence activist but led a secret life of crime, was sentenced Friday to up to 26 years in prison for shooting a 17-year-old student he had recruited to sell marijuana for him.
Suffolk Superior Court Judge Christopher Muse assailed Harrison, 58, as he imposed the sentence, calling the self-styled street preacher an “assassin” who endangered the students he was enlisted to counsel at the Jamaica Plain school.
“You profess to be a man of religion. You promote yourself as one who can mentor troubled youth,” Muse said. “And yet you violated the safety and promise that English High provides some of the most challenged kids in Boston by bringing drugs and violence to them.”
Muse sentenced Harrison to serve 18 to 20 years on the most serious charge, armed assault with intent to murder, followed by a five-to-six year sentence on his conviction for illegally possessing a firearm while committing a felony. A jury convicted Harrison on Thursday of 10 charges for attacking the student, Luis Rodriguez, now 20, and illegally possessing guns, ammunition, and marijuana.
Rodriguez, who testified during the trial, watched the sentencing hearing from the back of the courtroom, surrounded by relatives and officers who investigated the shooting on March 3, 2015.
Muse spoke about the Garden of Peace, the tribute to homicide victims near the courthouse that includes stones with the names of the dead engraved on them.
“The ambushing and shooting of Luis was a premeditated plan of first-degree murder by the defendant,” he said. “He did everything to engrave Luis’s name on one of those stones, except get a death certificate.”
During a two-week trial, prosecutors said Harrison enlisted Rodriguez, then a sophomore, to sell marijuana for him, but then turned on the teenager because he feared officials would learn about their arrangement. Harrison also believed Rodriguez was withholding drug earnings from him and not making enough money, prosecutors said.
Harrison began working at the school as the dean of academies in January 2015 and was responsible for keeping order in the hallways and cafeteria, mentoring troubled students, and conducting anger management classes, according to court testimony.
On the day of the shooting, Harrison arranged for Rodriguez to be attacked in school by another student, prosecutors said. Later that night, Harrison shot Rodriguez on Magazine Street in Roxbury and then fled, they said.
After he was shot, Rodriguez testified that he flagged down an oncoming car and the occupants called 911.
The bullet entered Rodriguez’s head just under his right ear, narrowly missing his carotid artery, breaking his jawbone, and causing nerve damage and hearing loss.
Rodriguez’s aunt, Diana Rodriguez, 25, delivered a victim impact statement in which she blasted Harrison and described her nephew as a survivor who has been separated from his mother since she was incarcerated 16 years ago.
“Mr. Shaun Harrison nearly took an innocent life and left him for dead. He corrupted minority children who are already disadvantaged. He sits here today with no remorse,” she said. “May God forgive you, sir, because we will not.”
Defense attorney Bruce Carroll asked Muse to send Harrison to prison for no more than eight years, saying he hoped his client would outlive his prison sentence.
Carroll had acknowledged that Harrison was guilty of some of the firearm and ammunition offenses, but disputed he shot Rodriguez. The student told hospital staff, according to Carroll, that he had been shot by a person who bought marijuana from him.
Carroll has notified the court that Harrison plans to appeal his convictions. At Carroll’s request, Muse stayed Harrison’s prison sentence for a week so his daughter, Lishaunda, could visit him before she returns to Miami.
Because of the shooting, Rodriguez was placed in a witness protection program and moved out of Boston, prosecutors said. He is studying for his GED, works in a restaurant, goes to church daily, and has a rescue cat named Minnie Mouse, according to his aunt.
“I couldn’t be more proud,” she said, adding that Rodriguez would like to follow in her footsteps and become a veterinary nurse.
Once Harrison’s punishment was imposed, Muse had one more request: Would Rodriguez meet with him in chambers?
He agreed, hugging one of the detectives who investigated the shooting before he walked into an office off the courtroom to meet the judge.