A Middletown teenager who fatally shot another teen in May 2018 received the maximum sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole after 21 years Monday in Butler County Common Pleas Court.
Gonnii White, 17, was convicted of murder with specifications for the use of a firearm and participating in a gang, both of which increase his possible sentence. Judge Noah Powers II gave White three years in prison time for the gang specification.
The jury deliberated less than two hours on June 14 before convicting White of the shooting death of Joseph Davis, also 17.
White said “No, sir,” when Powers asked if he had anything he wanted to say before sentencing on Monday.
Defense Attorney Tim Upton said White has family support, but they did not wish to speak because they were overcome with emotion. Several people sobbed in the front row of the courtroom and left without comment.
“My client was 16 years old at the time of the offense,” Upton told the judge. “This is just a tragic case all around, one teenager is dead and the other is going to prison with a (life sentence).”
White has been a “model” prisoner while at that the juvenile detention center, Upton said. He added that the teen has always been “polite and respectful” to him during conversations.
The defense attorney also noted White had also experienced loss with the death of his father, who was found dead while the teen was incarcerated awaiting trial.
In April, Powers granted White permission, under guard, to attend his father’s funeral in Cincinnati. Gary Clark’s remains were found in Delhi Twp. He had been missing since May 2017.
Despite suffering the loss of Davis, his nephew, Cedric Davis had forgiveness to offer White.
“It is easier to let it go than hold on to it forever,” Davis told the Journal News after the hearing. “Unfortunately a lot of things happened with Gonnii that people don’t really understand. He took a major loss and a hard one with his father and with finding out about his father right around the same time this happened with my nephew, I can only look at him as what he is, which is a child.”
Davis, who said he has been to prison and emerged a productive man, said he moved the family to Middletown from Detroit to escape the violence there. But the gang violence touched their lives here also, he said.
“Nobody wins, Nobody wins,” Davis said about gang violence. “If you are in an argument with someone and it comes to guns, whether you shoot them and you survive, you still don’t win because the people on the other side have to live with that for the rest of their lives, and if you die then your side has to deal with the loss of you.
“This was not a win for me today. He (White) is a kid, that is not a win, it is very sad. What is even sadder is he couldn’t even feel the emotion because he is so caught in his mind he is thinking this is how he has to be and it is not.”
During the four-day trial, White was shown on social media holding a gun, but he said he never shot a weapon until May 29, 2018.
That night, White said he saw Davis reach for something in his waistband, and because he “feared” for his life, he fired one warning shot in the air. He then closed his eyes and “started shooting,” White said when took the stand in his own defense during his trial.
Davis died from multiple gunshot wounds, and the manner of his death was homicide. Davis was shot in the neck, back, thigh and buttocks, according to testimony from a Montgomery County deputy coroner.
White admitted to the shooting, but the defense said he acted in self-defense.
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