It took a Cincinnati jury less than a day to render a guilty verdict on Wednesday (November 26) in the murder trial of Hosea Thomas . According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, the jury convicted Thomas on all 11 counts he faced in the 2006 shooting death of rapper [artist id=”1225081″]T.I.’s[/artist] boyhood friend and assistant, Philant Johnson , 26, including murder, five counts of felonious assault and illegally having a gun after a felony conviction.
Thomas will be sentenced on December 23 and faces a minimum of 20 years in the case, which hinged on the devastating testimony of the defendant’s brother, who was driving the car Thomas was traveling in on the night prosecutors said he opened fire on T.I.’s entourage.
Assistant Hamilton County Prosecutor Seth Tieger told the jury in closing arguments on Tuesday that Thomas became irate when he was denied access to the VIP room at the Club Ritz in Cincinnati on a night T.I. and Yung Joc were appearing at an afterparty there following a performance across town. Tieger said Thomas was angered that the area he was used to hanging out in was roped off for the rapper and that his anger was further fueled by a scuffle that broke out and resulted in Thomas, 35, being hit in the head with a liquor bottle. Tieger said those incidents were Thomas’ motive for opening fire on the van carrying T.I. and his entourage, resulting in Johnson’s death and injuries to three others.
Though Thomas’ lawyer, Charles Isaly, asked jurors to scrutinize some of the witnesses who testified against his client, saying that they were promised more lenient sentences in exchange for their testimony in the absence of DNA or physical evidence, ultimately the eyewitness testimony proved damaging to Isaly’s case.
T.I. testified on Friday, calmly relaying the events that transpired the night of the shooting and telling jurors that he was sure the shots fired were intended for him, not his friends and entourage. Isaly produced a surprise witness on the final day of the trial: Thomas’ girlfriend, Kim Sweeten, came forward to say she was with Thomas when he left the club, so he couldn’t have been the shooter. But according to the newspaper, Tieger poked holes in her story.
“So you just happened to be the one who can exonerate him? Lucky for him you are here,” Tieger said. Sweeten replied, “No, it’s not lucky for him because he didn’t do it. God works in mysterious ways.” But Tieger then countered with a tape of Thomas’ statement to police in which he never mentioned leaving the club with Sweeten on the night of May 3, 2006.
Prosecutors said that after the incident at the club, T.I.’s entourage left, and Thomas and his older brother, Padron Thomas, jumped into their Jeep Grand Cherokee and gave chase, with Padron at the wheel and the brothers’ friend, 17-year-old Mose Patrick Brown, in the backseat. The Jeep pulled alongside T.I.’s van at one point, and Hosea began firing, Tieger said.
Brown testified last week that he saw Hosea Thomas fire the shots and that he was scared, but that the Thomas brothers paid him $800 to stay quiet about the incident. He eventually broke that promise and went to police with his story after becoming so distraught that he considered committing suicide. Padron Thomas also agreed to testify against his brother in exchange for a more lenient sentence.