Keeta Peete took the witness stand Friday in Suffolk Superior Court and faced the gang member who was convicted the day before of fatally shooting Peete’s 17-year-old brother outside the teen’s Dorchester high school.
“You probably don’t remember me,” Peete told the defendant, Jaden Waiters, 21, before Waiters was sentenced to life in prison for the June 2016 slaying of Peete’s younger sibling, Raekwon Brown. “I used to buy you and ’Kwon ice cream out of the same ice cream truck. . . . I still hold nothing against you.”
Peete spoke during an emotional sentencing hearing for Waiters and two codefendants, Jonathan Aguasvivas, 25, and Benzy Bain, 26.
On Thursday, jurors convicted Waiters of first-degree murder and found Aguasvivas guilty of second-degree murder in Brown’s slaying. Bain was acquitted of murder but convicted of several lesser weapons charges. Waiters and Aguasvivas were also convicted on the weapons counts.
Judge Jeffrey Locke on Friday sentenced Waiters to life in prison without the possibility of parole, the mandatory penalty for first-degree murder. He sentenced Aguasvivas to a life term with parole eligibility after 20 years. Bain received a 15-to-20-year prison sentence.
Peete repeatedly said he held “nothing against” the defendants, whom prosecutors described as members of the H-Block gang targeting a rival when Waiters fired nine shots into a crowd of teens outside the Jeremiah E. Burke High School on the afternoon of June 8, 2016. Brown wasn’t the rival in question but was merely standing among students who had just exited the school after a fire alarm went off, prosecutors said.
“I understand the way the streets move and the consequences,” Peete told the defendants. “Personally, I hold nothing against you.”
Reading from a poem he wrote for his slain brother, Peete recalled Brown as a “high-spirited person” and “gentle teddy bear” who loved Arizona drinks, video games, chicken tenders, and “writing raps and creating music videos.”
“His smile is embedded in my mind,” Peete said, remembering Brown’s “positive, energetic, relaxing vibe.” When people ask where Brown’s final resting place is, Peete added, “Heaven is the only response that we should give. . . . May my brother rest in peace.”
Locke said from the bench that Peete’s words were “very powerful” after he concluded his statement.
Prosecutors read a statement from Brown’s parents, Wanda and Damien Graddy.
“This has been one big pill to swallow, and sometimes we don’t know how we will make it,” the grieving parents wrote. “We miss him so much.”
They said their son enjoyed a variety of activities including fishing, basketball, cooking, and shopping. The Graddys also thanked law enforcement, Locke, and the jury for delivering “justice for our son. . . . We love you, Raekwon.”
Of the three defendants, only Bain chose to address the court before Locke handed down the sentences. Bain, a married father of two who previously served a 3 ½-year term for his second illegal gun possession offense, faced Brown’s family and said, “I’m sincerely sorry for your loss, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart.”
As Bain spoke, a male relative of Brown’s walked out in disgust, with a court officer shielding him from the defense table.
“I’m not a bad person,” Bain continued, insisting he has a “good heart. . . . I hope that you can see that in me.” He said he was praying “for Mrs. Brown’s forgiveness” and concluded his remarks by telling the family, “I hope Raekwon can finally rest in peace.”
At trial, prosecutors said the defendants were traveling in a van driven by Aguasvivas on the day of the murder when they spotted a teen who they thought was affiliated with a rival gang outside the school.
Waiters got out of the van and fired nine shots into the crowd, killing Brown and wounding two other teenagers, an attack committed at the behest of his older accomplices, prosecutors said.
Though Aguasvivas currently has a chance at being released in two decades, that could change if he’s convicted in a second murder case that remains pending.
He’s charged with first-degree murder in the February 2016 homicide of 22-year-old Marquis Waithe in Roxbury. He also faces separate gun charges related to the discovery of firearms at his home during the Brown investigation.
When the defendants were led out of the courtroom Friday, one of Aguasvivas’s relatives said “We love you, Jonathan,” and a family member of Waiters shouted, “We love you, Jaden. God bless you. Stay strong. Keep your faith.”
During the hearing, James Greenberg, a lawyer for Bain, told Locke the defendants “now have also lost their lives.”
The judge corrected him.
“They have lost their liberty,” Locke said. “There’s a big distinction between [that and] the loss of Raekwon Brown.”
Travis Andersen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.