Tevin Biles-Thomas, the brother of legendary U.S. gymnast Simone Biles, was acquitted of multiple murder charges on Tuesday. Moments later, the mother of one murder victim angrily confronted him in court.
Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Judge Joan Synenberg granted a defense motion to dismiss all charges against Biles-Thomas, who was accused by prosecutors of killing three partygoers and wounding two others at a 2018 New Year’s Eve hangout in Cleveland.
Delvante Johnson, 19; Toshaun Banks, 21; and Devaughn Gibson, 23, were all killed at the Airbnb on the night in question.
“In viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the state, the description of the clothing worn by the shooter is 75 percent accurate at best,” the judge said in video captured by Cleveland ABC affiliate WEWS. “In viewing the light most favorable to the state, it is insufficient to sustain a conviction. The motion is granted as to all counts.”
The judge went on to note that the case against Biles-Thomas had concluded and proceeded to offer words of appreciation and sympathy for the “families of the victims.”
As the court went into recess, one of those family members acted out.
“You have to be fucking kidding me,” Johnson’s mother screamed out with a nearly preternatural wail as she flung her body across the courtroom toward the man who moments earlier had been adjudicated as innocent. “I’m going to kill you.”
Judge Synenberg looked on with equal parts bemusement and nonchalance as bailiffs swooped in to break up the altercation.
“He killed my baby,” the woman yelled afterwards as calm returned and Biles-Thomas was escorted away. “You know he killed my baby.”
A spokesperson for the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas released a terse statement about the post-game contretemps:
Following a ruling in The State of Ohio vs Tevin Biles-Thomas (CR-19-643478-A), a person in the gallery charged toward the defendant. The Court thanks the Sheriff’s Department for their assistance.
“We don’t fault the victim’s family, this was a horrible event,” the now-former defendant’s defense attorney Joseph Patituce told NBC News. “We don’t fault the victim’s family for acting out.”
“I mean it can’t be forgotten that Tevin not only has suffered through two and a half years of defending himself, but he also lost a loved one, too,” Patituce continued — referring to Biles-Thomas’s cousin, Gibson.
Tuesday’s chaotic denouement marks an emotional, jarring — and very much on theme — capstone to a long-and-winding criminal case that has seen its fair share of oddities and setbacks.
In May, a mistrial was declared after jurors were inadvertently given copies of documents containing discussions between the defense and the prosecution that jurors apparently weren’t supposed to see.
Some of those documents included legal briefs authored by Biles-Thomas’s lawyers that argued their client may have acted in self-defense. Jury instructions to this effect were also included in the verboten trove of court records — an instruction the court ruled against.
Notably, the first side to raise self-defense was actually the prosecution; the defense largely argued there was no way to know who actually fired the fatal shots in question but apparently requested (and was denied) an affirmative defense strategy.
Synenberg was essentially forced to quash the trial at that point because the jurors said they had been influenced by the documents.
Two days prior to being acquitted, three said-to-be-key witnesses could not be located — prompting the prosecution to file a now-moot request for warrants compelling them to appear. The state had never been successful in securing the in-court testimony of the lone person who allegedly claimed to have seen Biles-Thomas fire the weapon.
[image via screengrab/WEWS]
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