Selma nightclub shooter gets probation, sentence sparks outrage

Selma nightclub shooter gets probation, sentence sparks outrage
John Brown (Source: Dallas County District Attorney's Office)
John Brown (Source: Dallas County District Attorney's Office)
Judge Marvin Wiggins (Source: WSFA 12 News)
Judge Marvin Wiggins (Source: WSFA 12 News)
(Source: WSFA 12 News)
(Source: WSFA 12 News)
DeAndre Fuller (Source: Selma Police Department)
DeAndre Fuller (Source: Selma Police Department)

DALLAS CO., AL (WSFA) - Prosecutors are calling the punishment for a Selma gunman a "total outrage" after he admitted his guilt in a nightclub shooting that left one dead and several others wounded and was placed on probation, not in prison.

John Brown's sentencing by a headline-making judge has come under fire, but Brown's attorney says the judge looked at the whole story and took several factors into account.

Four people were shot and Lavisha Fuller, 21, was killed in the October 2011 shooting at the 12th Stone Club on Water Street.

The victim's brother, DeAndre Fuller, was the first suspect arrested in the case. Then John Brown was arrested and charged with murder and four counts of attempted murder.

Police said DeAndre Fuller argued with another man inside the club and was thrown out and later returned with a gun, leading to the shooting. In the barrage of bullets, his sister was fatally wounded.

Fuller was later sentenced to life in prison without parole in a murder he committed when he was out of jail on bond in the 12th Stone case.

John Brown, his co-defendant in the 12th Stone Club case, ended up pleading guilty last week to manslaughter and four counts of assault.

He faced up to 20 years in prison for manslaughter and up to 10 years on each assault charge.

But District Attorney Michael Jackson says Brown's sentence ended up being a "disappointment and shock."

Jackson represents the 4th Judicial Circuit, which consists of Bibb, Dallas, Hale, Perry, and Wilcox Counties, and so does Circuit Judge Marvin Wiggins, who handled Brown's case.

"The judge sentenced him to five years on probation and dismissed the assault charges," Jackson said. "These two guys shot up the club. One young lady died. Four other people got shot. This guy needed to go off to prison for a long time. He's a gunslinger going in there shooting up a club. His bullet is the one that killed the young lady. With all the stuff going on in Selma, we need judges to be tough, not soft on crime."

Wiggins is no stranger to controversy. In 2009, he was punished for not stepping aside in a voter fraud case involving family members in Hale County.

In 2014, the governor removed him from the Alabama State University Board of Trustees.

And in 2015, he got national attention when he allegedly threatened defendants who couldn't pay court fees with jail time if they didn't go outside and donate blood during a drive at the Perry County Courthouse.

Now, John Brown's sentencing in Dallas County has come under fire.

"Everyone is upset," Jackson said. "They go out here shooting all the time, and they belong in prison. We're going to appeal all of this and try to get this overturned because the judge just did his own thing, didn't follow anything. We want justice for the family."

One of Brown's attorneys, Robert Turner Jr., says the judge considered all of the circumstances surrounding the case.

He says John Brown was in jail for 18-20 months before he was released on bond, and he was given credit for that time served.

"He sat in jail for a substantial period of time, and the judge took that into account," Turner said. "There was also an early acceptance of responsibility."

Turner says Brown expressed remorse since the victim was a close family friend who he was trying to defend that night.

In court, two of the victims' family members stated they know John didn't intend to hurt her, his attorney said.

"This is not a ruthless guy. He accepted responsibility early on and cooperated with authorities from the start. The victim was a very dear friend," Turner added.

John Brown entered a blind plea to manslaughter, not knowing what his punishment would be. He received a 15-year reverse split sentence, whereby several years of probation come first.

Under a reverse split sentence, the defendant is placed on probation for a limited amount of time, then is required to serve the remainder of the sentence.  Because the sentencing judge retains jurisdiction over the split sentence, if the defendant abides by the terms and conditions of the probation, the sentencing judge can then suspend the remainder of the sentence. If the defendant fails to make it on probation, the remainder of the sentence is served.

The district attorney says it's not the outcome his office wanted.

"It was a scary night. Can you imagine being in a club and people are having a good time and all of a sudden, bullets start going every which way. Bullets don't have eyes," Michael Jackson said. "It was gang retaliation, the usual stuff going on in Selma. We're not going tolerate it and we're not going to tolerate these kinds of outrageous sentences."

Calls to Judge Wiggins' office have not been returned.

"He put on his robe that day and gave this guy probation and dismissed his other charges," Jackson added. "It's a slap in the face to this family. It makes Selma look bad. It makes the whole court system look bad."

Copyright 2016 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.