Man pleads to murdering Sharon teen

A Sharon man pleaded guilty Thursday to the Jan. 20 shooting death of Sharon High School basketball player Le’Angelo Ford, 17, during a house party on Strawbridge Avenue in Sharon.

Jontae Maurice Barnes, 20, pleaded to a charge of involuntary manslaughter and possession of a weapon without a license. A charge of murder was dropped in exchange for his guilty plea, according to Mercer County District Attorney Robert G. Kochems.

Kochems said his office is recommending Barnes be sentenced to two years at the county jail for the involuntary manslaughter charge, which is a first-degree misdemeanor, and seven years probation for the weapons charge, which is a third-degree felony. Barnes will be sentenced Sept 4 at the Mercer County Courthouse.

Kochems said obtaining a guilty plea on the murder charge would be difficult because those attending the party did not leave when they saw Barnes with the gun. He also said he took Barnes’ age into consideration when making his sentencing recommendation, stating in a news release that more jail time would result in Barnes going to state prison, which would “limit his chances at change and success in the future.”

The district attorney said if Barnes violates probation or any term of the plea agreement, he could be sentenced to the same amount of prison time he would have gotten if he pleaded to first-degree murder.

Kochems said Barnes pleaded to the firearms charge even though the state may have had difficulty proving he had the gun, which shows “he is on the correct path of change and taking responsibility for his actions.” He said the firearms charge carries a more lengthy jail term than the involuntary manslaughter charge.

He also said he took Barnes’ minimal criminal record of drunk driving and disorderly conduct into consideration. Kochems said the plea agreement was discussed with Ford’s family, who he said believes “is not sufficient punishment for Ford’s death and does not send a strong enough message for deterrence in the community.”

Barnes was arrested a short time after the shooting a few blocks away from his Liberty Street home.

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