This article was originally published on GoErie.com by Madeleine O’Neill on Feb 20, 2018
A key witness who disappeared during an Erie drive-by shooting trial resurfaced Tuesday morning after evading law enforcement for more than three weeks.
Eugene Husband, 23, turned himself in to the Erie County Sheriff’s Office shortly before noon and was transported to the Erie County Prison, Sheriff John Loomis said.
Husband’s disappearance led to the acquittal of two of the four defendants accused of firing from an SUV at a July 24, 2015, outdoor party, killing 16-year-old Shakur Franklin and wounding four others.
Husband was expected to identify three of the defendants — Stephen T. Russell, Jahaun M. Jones and Keshawn C. McLaurin — as being inside the SUV just before it drove through the outdoor party near West 29th and Summit Streets.
Husband could face charges for failing to appear at the trial. Erie County District Attorney Jack Daneri declined to comment on whether he has plans to charge Husband.
Erie County Judge William R. Cunningham issued a warrant for Husband after he failed to appear to testify on Jan. 25. Husband would have been the prosecution’s final witness in the trial, which lasted four days.
Cunningham granted judgments of acquittal to Russell and Jones when Husband failed to appear. Husband’s testimony would have been the only evidence linking the two defendants to the scene of the homicide. McLaurin was convicted of first-degree murder based on other evidence presented at the trial. The fourth defendant, Demond D. Mitchell, was acquitted by jurors.
Husband’s disappearance was a major blow to the prosecution in a case that was plagued by reluctant witnesses.
Daneri said after the trial that Husband was not eligible to be detained on a material witness bond because he was in contact with the prosecution in the days before he was expected to testify. Had he been eligible, Husband could have been held in prison to ensure his appearance at the trial.
Husband is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 28 in an unrelated assault case, according to court records.
In December 2016, Husband pleaded guilty to a second-degree misdemeanor count of simple assault and no contest to a first-degree misdemeanor count of possession of a weapon. A first-degree misdemeanor count of terroristic threats and several summary charges were dropped. Husband was free on $50,000 bond in that case.
Daneri and Husband’s lawyer in that case, Garrett Taylor, said Husband’s testimony in the homicide case was not a condition of the plea. His sentencing in the case was postponed four times, until after the trial, court records show.
“My hope was that through any assistance he might be able to provide … that he would have received some consideration for a sentence,” Taylor said in late January. There was no agreement for a sentencing recommendation, he said.
Daneri said he can bring up Husband’s failure to appear at the sentencing, but declined to comment on whether he plans to do so.
“We can mention anything we want,” Daneri said. “The sentence is solely in the judge’s hands.”
Daneri declined to comment further on Husband’s reappearance. Due to the constitutional prohibition against double jeopardy, his office cannot refile homicide charges against Russell and Jones, the defendants who were acquitted when Husband failed to appear.
Madeleine O’Neill can be reached at 870-1728 or by email. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/ETNoneill.