When he was charged with second-degree murder in June 2014, Brandon Martez Wilburn faced a possible 22-year prison sentence.
Wednesday, his fortunes shifted in Pierce County Superior Court.
Instead of a murder rap, Wilburn, 24, pleaded guilty to second-degree robbery and got 29 months. He’s already served 18 of them in county lockup. He could be free before the end of 2016.
What happened? About 18 months of pre-trial maneuvering and a plea bargain agreed to by all sides.
Ultimately, prosecutors concluded Wilburn didn’t fire the gunshots that killed 27-year-old Phillip Little on May 20, 2014. Wednesday, deputy prosecutor Lisa Wagner stated that Thomas Law II, Wilburn’s co-defendant, was the shooter.
Ultimately, prosecutors concluded Brandon Wilburn didn’t fire the gunshots that killed 27-year-old Phillip Little on May 20, 2014. Wednesday, deputy prosecutor Lisa Wagner stated that Thomas Law II, Wilburn’s codefendant, was the shooter.
Law, 32, pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter last month. On Nov. 23, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
“But for the agreement we reached with Mr. Wilburn, I doubt we would have gotten to where we got with Mr. Law,” Wagner said.
The two men were accused of killing Little after a drug deal went bad. Little was shot four times, three times in the back, according to an autopsy report cited in court records.
His body was found at the bottom of an embankment near South 56th and Orchard streets in University Place.
Little’s family members sat in the gallery Wednesday during Wilburn’s hearing, but declined to address the court. Wagner spoke briefly on their behalf.
“This was a very close family, and the death of Mr. Little affected them greatly — he was loved,” Wagner said. “It’s a bitter pill for them to swallow.”
This was a very close family, and the death of Mr. Little affected them greatly — he was loved. It’s a bitter pill for them to swallow.
Deputy prosecutor Lisa Wagner
Wilburn also declined to speak, apart from briefly answering Judge Jack Nevin’s questions.
Did Wilburn understand that his offense counted as a “strike” under state law? He did. Did he understand he was giving up his presumption of innocence by pleading guilty to second-degree robbery and rendering criminal assistance?
“Yes,” Wilburn said.
Defense attorney Les Tolzin offered a short statement, saying Wilburn was trying to arrange a meeting between Little and Law and did not expect the violence that followed.
“He is sorry,” Tolzin said.
Nevin, accepting the plea agreement without revision, spoke of waste.
“Again we’re faced with the specter of firearms and unnecessary violence and a young man has lost his life,” the judge said. “Another young man, the young man sitting before me, due to his proximity to that violence, has been profoundly affected. His life is going to be changed forever as a result of this.
“Many nights I go home and I ask myself why, and I don’t have an answer. It’s just profoundly sad.”