In his first 60 bookings into area county jails, Brandon M. Howard mostly avoided serious consequences. Howard’s 61st stay is ending after he was sentenced Wednesday to seven years in prison for sex crimes against two teen boys after he provided them drugs.
The statutory sentencing range was 2 to 47 years, and the mother of a victim who attended the sentencing in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court was shocked at the prison term handed down by Judge Richard Skelton, who said Howard earned 749 days of jail-time credit.
“The crimes, the intensity of crimes, what they are compared to the fact that he … five years from now will be free is just completely unacceptable to me,” said the mother, whose name is being withheld to protect the victims.
“I think it sends a message … to other sex offenders that you’re going to get slapped on your hand… That’s it? You might spend five years? But the family members and the victims are tortured forever?” the mother said. “It’s not justice.”
Sex and drugs
Howard, 35, repeatedly blew crack smoke into one of the victim’s faces until the boy tried it in November 2016, according to a Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office sentencing memorandum. Howard performed sex acts with the boy, then 15, and later with a 14-year-old.
Mark Shaver — Howard’s boyfriend and a co-defendant who received probation — and Howard tried to convince the boys that the sexual assaults were practice to make a pornographic movie, the memo said.
Similar alleged activities continued throughout the end of 2016. Victims told their story early in 2017. Howard was booked into jail April 6, 2017. Since then, Howard’s had three attorneys and the case schedule conflicted with others on Judge Barbara Gorman’s docket. Skelton got the case earlier this year.
“We’re disappointed in the sentence,” assistant prosecutor Jennifer Weber said. “I recognize that no sentence in this case would have provided justice to this family.
“But I think that his record, as well as what happened in this case, speak volumes about the type of person he is,” Weber added. “I think he’s a monster and I think he’s a master manipulator.”
61 jail bookings since 2004
Howard’s 61 bookings in jails in Greene, Tri-County, Clark and Montgomery counties starting in 2004 ran the gamut.
They included allegations of drunk driving, theft, obstruction, contempt, no driver’s license, illegal window tinting, possession of drugs, drug trafficking, pocket-picking, receiving stolen property, identity fraud, simple assault, leaving the scene of an accident, domestic assault, burglary, abduction and several more.
Not all the bookings led to official misdemeanor charges, and only one previous case in Greene County involved a felony for which Howard received probation before a short prison sentence for violating his community control sanctions.
“What I don’t understand is how you can see somebody escalating in their crimes and you don’t do more about it — just keep giving a slap on the hand,” the victims’ grandmother said. “Starting from doing drugs to selling drugs, to domestic violence and violence against children. He’s escalating … I just don’t understand the court system.”
Mother: Victim wants revenge
The victims’ mother gave an impassioned plea to Skelton to send Howard away for many years. She said her son’s life goals used to include the military and being an electrician.
“His goals now are to torture and hurt somebody because he feels that’s the only justice because somebody did that to him,” she said. “In his mind, there is no other way. His other goal is death because he doesn’t know another way to escape.”
Given a chance to speak, the victim who attended lobbied for Howard’s release.
“All I’d like to say is I feel like Brandon has already served the proper amount of time,” the boy said. “And I feel like he should be able to get out as soon as possible.”
The boy’s mother said her son said that because he wants to exact revenge on Howard as soon as possible. The boy denied that when asked by the judge: “I found forgiveness in my heart when I found God.”
‘I didn’t act appropriately’
During his statement before sentencing, Howard told the boy not to let the situation continue to screw up his life.
“Don’t keep doing drugs,” Howard said. “You’ve seen what it’s done to me … I was the adult in the situation, and I didn’t act appropriately. I’m sorry.”
Skelton told Howard he didn’t have all the answers in this case: “I believe that you, as the adult, have to pay a price here.”
Defense attorney Nicholas Gounaris asked for time served as a sentence and said he had defenses to some of the 11 counts, but that his client did plead guilty to the remaining indicted charges and spare the victims testifying at trial.
Skelton questioned prosecutors about plea negotiations that appeared to put an acceptable range at 10 to 15 years and then their memo asked for 47 years.
“They were never really happy with that (10 to 15) number, but they understood the realities of it,” assistant prosecutor Jonathan Sauline said. “And when the defendant admitted guilt, based on the facts of the case, based on the circumstances of how the case had proceeded, we felt it was appropriate to request the highest sentence possible.”
‘Look what you’ve done to us’
The mother said she was shocked the “smart and methodical” Howard had been taken to jail so many times and that the latest booking has cost taxpayers about $48,000.
“So we’ve been supporting him sitting in here,” the mother said. “Living in the same county, I’m paying for it … You can raise my taxes to keep people like him (incarcerated).”
The victim’s family had tried to help Howard — whom the mother knew since she was 15 years old — with substance abuse issues.
“We did try to help you all the times you’ve been in trouble,” the victims’ grandmother said. “We were trying to be a village for you, and look what you’ve done to us. Think about that when you’re in your cell.”
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