Judge urges end to gang vi­o­lence in Lock­port as killer is sen­tenced

The Buffalo News - - CITY&REGION - By Thomas J. Pro­haska N E WS STA F F R EPORT ER

Ni­a­gara County Judge Sara Shel­don has seen more than her share of the ef­fects of gang vi­o­lence. By de­cid­ing the fates of the ac­cused, she does what she can to stop it.

As she pre­pared to send yet another young man off to prison Thurs­day, she said she is will­ing to do more.

“This vi­o­lence in Lock­port has to stop,” she said from the bench. “I’ll do what­ever you need me to do. I’ll speak to your groups. Call me.”

Shel­don made the of­fer as she sen­tenced a Lock­port teenager, who ap­par­ently tried to re­sist gang in­volve­ment, to 15 years in prison for a fa­tal stab­bing in a street fight last year.

D’Vonne T. Clark, 18, pleaded guilty to a re­duced charge of first­de­gree man­slaugh­ter af­ter be­ing in­dicted on a mur­der charge in the July 22 death of Elijah Wed­ing­ton, 16, of Buf­falo.

It hap­pened as po­lice said Wed­ing­ton was beat­ing up one of Clark’s friends in a fight in an al­ley off Pine Street. Clark, who was 17 at the time, pulled a knife and stabbed Wed­ing­ton in the side.

Shel­don said she was im­pressed by let­ters from adults that told her Clark, of Cale­do­nia Street, had tried to avoid be­ing ab­sorbed into street gangs, but since 2016, when he was 15, was be­ing ha­rassed and threat­ened with vi­o­lence for his stance.

“There was al­ways some­one look­ing to fight him, ha­rass him,” Shel­don read from one wo­man’s let­ter.

“These gangs are groups of lost souls, un­wanted and un­watched,” another wo­man wrote. “In­stead of be­ing out in the street sell­ing drugs, D’Vonne and his friends were out with shov­els in the win­ter and lawn mow­ers in the sum­mer, look­ing to make money.”

Shel­don said she had seen Facebook pic­tures of Wed­ing­ton “bran­dish­ing a hand­gun.”

“I know why (Clark) had a knife, but I don’t know why he pulled it out and why he used it,” the judge said. “No one else had a weapon. No one else showed a weapon.”

“There was con­sid­er­able back-and


forth be­tween two groups of young men on the streets of Lock­port,” As­sis­tant Dis­trict At­tor­ney Doreen M. Hoff­mann said. “This time, some­body came armed with a weapon.”

“He felt he needed to bring a knife with him,” de­fense at­tor­ney Joseph A. Scalzo said. “He was con­cerned he’d be a vic­tim of a gang as­sault.”

“I’m just tired of bury­ing chil­dren. I’m tired of see­ing chil­dren go to jail,” Tan­isha Mor­row, Wed­ing­ton’s aunt, told Shel­don.

She faced Clark in the court­room and said, “I want you to do some­thing pos­i­tive with your­self, young man.”

Clark, backed by about 30 friends and rel­a­tives in the au­di­ence, wept and hy­per­ven­ti­lated as he tried to speak. “I have re­morse for ev­ery­thing I’ve done to every­one in this court­room,” Clark said. “Be­cause of this in­ci­dent, peo­ple are afraid to send their chil­dren out­side. ... I just hope that one day, every­one will be able to for­give me.”

“My client made a split (-sec­ond) de­ci­sion, which was the wrong de­ci­sion,” Scalzo said. “A 16-year-old died, and he has to be held accountable for that.”

Scalzo asked for a 12-year sen­tence, while Hoff­mann asked for 18 years, which was the sen­tenc­ing limit Shel­don set when Clark pleaded guilty. The judge split the dif­fer­ence with a 15-year term. “I’m sen­tenc­ing a 17-year-old for killing a 16-year-old,” Shel­don said. “What has this world come to?”

College stu­dents Tim Gay, left, and Connor Spencer work on retrofitting a car for Char­lotte D’Ai­u­tolo as part of the GoBabyGo! pro­gram.

The Town of Lock­port IDA ap­proved a 15-year in­cen­tive pack­age for Ver­i­zon on a $28 mil­lion ex­pan­sion of one of its two data cen­ters. Story on Page C6.

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