By Michelle Guffey
Killeen Daily Herald
BELTON A 21-year-old former Fort Hood soldier was sentenced Thursday to 10 years of deferred probation on two counts of aggravated robbery and 180 days in the Bell County Jail with no jail credit.
Brandon Nicholas Reed, sentenced by Judge Martha Trudo of the 264th District Court for the Nov. 7 and the Nov. 9, 2003, charges, was a member of a criminal street gang known as the Gangster Disciples, based out of Chicago.
Last month, Reed, along with several other gang members, testified in the trial of Sgt. Jerome Smith. Smith was sentenced to 99 years in prison for the Nov. 7 and the Nov. 9, 2003, armed robberies of a Harker Heights residence and a Killeen convenience store.
Reeds testimony and cooperation with the state helped to convict Smith of two counts of aggravated robbery as a member of a criminal street gang, even though he wasnt in town when both incidents occurred.
Law enforcement officials and gang members all testified that Smith was the leader of the local GD.
Prosecutor Michael Waldman said that Reed initiated those proceedings. His cooperation was extensive, he said.
Reed testified that his job in the gang was to generate money, usually from identity theft or from selling drugs. Reed said he wasnt generating the amount of revenue that Smith had directed, so Reed received orders from a high-level gang member to make money.
He wouldnt have come to me without the blessing of Smith, he said.
During Smiths trial, Reed testified that on Nov. 7, 2003, he and two other gang members, Chimeniem Odu Echendu and Denzel Davis, followed a Harker Heights man from his place of business to his home and robbed him with a Tazer and 9 mm handgun.
Reed said he parked a few houses down from the home, and Echendu and Davis approached the man at his front door. After Echendu pistol-whipped him and Davis used the Tazer on him, they took his wallet and $300, Reed had testified.
Reed explained that the money wasnt for them. It was for Smith, who was in Las Vegas at the time.
Two days later, Reed was instructed to get more money for Smith. Reed and Markus Maddox went to the Wolaes Convenience Store in Killeen to rob it. Once again, Reed was the driver. Maddox went into the store and robbed the clerk, taking $108.
Echendu and Maddox pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon and were sentenced earlier in the month. Maddox received 10 years deferred probation, and Echendu received 25 years in prison.
During Reeds sentencing hearing, the prosecution pointed out that before Reed began cooperating, both cases had been closed, with no suspects and no leads.
We wouldnt have the convictions of Jerome Smith, Markus Maddox and Chimeniem Odu Echendu without the cooperation of Reed, Waldman said.
Waldman told Judge Trudo that Reed came to them about the cases and gang activity.
He was not a suspect until he went to CID, he said. Reed got started and got others involved in the cases.
I would like to point out that these were horrific crimes committed by gang members, Waldman said.
Waldman said Reed initiated the robberies because of gang pressure. Reed was described by both the prosecution and defense as a model witness.
The prosecution told Judge Trudo that it was not going to make a recommendation as to sentencing in the case.
He needs to be held credible for his involvement (in the robberies), Waldman said. We leave the terms up to your honor.
Judge Trudo told Reed that these were horrible crimes he put into action.
You deserve to be in the penitentiary for a good long time, she admonished.
But, she added, she needed to weigh the seriousness of what he did with his cooperation in the Smith trial.
No matter what I do, you will have to be looking over your shoulder, she said. You have no one to blame but yourself.
Judge Trudo told Reed that innocent people who are trying to work and take care of their families are fearful to this day because of what he put into motion.
Youve grown up without your family having a clue as to what you have done since you were 8 years old, she said, referring to Reed joining the Crips when he was a young boy.
Reeds mother, Eloise, testified Thursday that she was unaware of his gang activity.
Defense Attorney Bob Odom asked Mrs. Reed if she thought he might have joined the Crips because of his size. Reed is 5 feet 4 inches tall.
Its a possibility, she answered.
Judge Trudo told Reed that he was intelligent enough that he could do many things.
But youre smart enough and canny enough to play both sides against one another, she said. You raise havoc for other people.
Judge Trudo mentioned that she doesnt want him getting off probation early.
I want to keep track of you, she said. If you violate your probation, you will be brought back to court.
If Reed violates the terms and conditions of his parole, he could be sentenced anywhere from five to 99 years in prison.
In addition to 10 years probation, Judge Trudo instructed Reed to pay a $1,000 fine, restitution, court fees, attorney fees, write a letter of apology to the victims, get his GED within one year of release from jail, keep a curfew of 8 p.m. to 6 a.m., perform 500 hours of community service on each count, and have no contact with any gang members.
I want you to have a long life and to make your family proud, she said.
Contact Michelle Guffey at firstname.lastname@example.org