Family members and friends of Tony Johnson spent hours in court Wednesday testifying on his behalf, claiming the 21-year-old was a changed man and had found God since he was arrested for his involvement in the Sept. 4, 2004, shooting deaths of Camp Lejeune Marine 2nd Lt. Brett Harman and businessman Kevin McCann, both 23, of Chicago.
Witnesses also said that Johnson went from being a substance abuser with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder to a calm, spiritual person.
"He just wants to get on with whatever God's purpose for him is," said Dennis Hamrick, a Johnson family friend.
Johnson pleaded guilty Sept. 21 to charges of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to inflict serious injury and accessory after the fact. Prosecutors said he gave his brother his car to get away from the scene after the shootings.
In August, Johnson's older brother, Timothy Johnson, was convicted of first-degree murder in McCann's death and second-degree murder in Harman's and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The victims' families and friends, who traveled from Chicago in August for Timothy Johnson's trial, returned to Raleigh to witness Tony Johnson's sentencing. They sat in the courtroom audience, where Tony Johnson addressed them shortly before the judge imposed the sentence.
"I would like to apologize to the family and express my remorse," he said. "I'm sorry, I don't have the right words to say at this time."
Family members, however, said there were no right words that he could have said to lessen their grief.
"It means nothing," said Terry McCann, the brother of Kevin McCann. "If you're caught. You're 10 seconds away from being sentenced and now you want to speak up? You could have spoken up for months, years."
Tony Johnson is already serving 16 years in prison in connection with a home invasion that occurred in August 2004.
Along with the victims' families and friends, eight jurors from Timothy Johnson's murder trial came back to lend their support.
"It was very important because we're all committed to this," said jury foreman Ed Pack. "And we needed to be here for the families."