CHICAGO — The last of five suspects convicted in the 2009 videotaped beating death of a Chicago teenager was sentenced to 32 years in prison Monday — a quiet ending to a case that gained international attention and sparked a debate about youth violence around the country.
Lapoleon Colbert, 20, was convicted of first-degree murder in June by a jury that heard tape of his police interrogation in which he admitted to kicking Derrion Albert in the head and stomping on him while he lay defenseless on the ground. He apologized to Albert’s family sitting a few feet away and pleaded with the judge.
“This is my first offense, have mercy on me,” Lapoleon said in court, standing to face the family.
But Circuit Judge Nicholas Ford, who handed down prison sentences of at least a quarter century to the three others charged as adults, was not swayed. One suspect tried as a juvenile was ordered to remain prisoned until he turns 21.
“There is a growing tolerance of conduct that history would view as unconscionable, “and people better “start understanding that there this is a difference between right and wrong,” Ford said.
The fight was near a high school on the city’s South Side where Albert and Colbert attended school. In a cellphone video that circulated worldwide after it was posted online, Derrion’s attackers are seen punching and kicking him, slamming him over the head with large boards and finally, stomping on his head.
The sight of Albert trying to defend himself against waves of attackers, staggering to his feet and then crashing to the street again as he was unable to cover his body from all the kicks and punches, prompted the police department and the school district to take steps of security around schools. From Washington, President Barack Obama dispatched two top Cabinet officials to the city to discuss ways to quell the violence.
In Chicago, various programs were implemented to help students get safely to and from public schools — to get them past neighborhoods where just walking posed a danger — as well as initiatives such as conflict resolution programs for kids once they are inside the schools.
Albert’s mother, Anjanette Albert, said she didn’t know about the changes in the schools but said she misses her son every day.
“I wish that they had something in place before my son’s life was taken,” she said. “I still feel sick, he’s not here. I’m never going to see him again. I can’t talk to him. He couldn’t graduate or go on prom. Everything has been taken away from me.”