Everyone agreed no one was a winner in Tuesday’s sentencing for a 2016 Pasco murder.
After tearful testimony from two families, Simeon C.E. Howard, 36, was sentenced to seven years and five months in prison.
Howard said he would accept any sentence the judge gave, apologizing to Thomas Contreras De Leon’s family, his family and the community. He promised to become a better person.
“I did not have any intention to hurt anybody,” he said. “I can’t change the hands of time, but I can change me.”
The Richland father of seven pleaded guilty last week to illegally having a gun and third-degree assault for his part in the December 2016 shooting.
His half-brother, Nathaniel L. Thompson, 27, was considering a similar plea agreement but turned down an offer from prosecutors Tuesday.
Thompson’s trial is April 16 for premeditated first-degree murder along with the allegations that it was a drive-by shooting and conspiracy to commit murder.
If convicted, he is facing his third felony strike, which means a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
Howard and Thompson said they were acting in self defense that night.
After both left the bar, De Leon called Thompson and told him to meet him in his Pasco neighborhood to settle the dispute. Thompson showed up later with Howard.
De Leon also brought a couple friends. Franklin County Prosecutor Shawn Sant said they planned a fist fight but the half-brothers opened fire.
But Howard’s attorney, Shelley Ajax, argued that De Leon shot first, and Howard was trying to protect himself.
Either way, there were two piles of shell casings where the two sides apparently traded shots. No guns were found.
“We charged a very serious allegation. We would be prepared to go forward with those allegations, but also recognize that there is a lot of evidence that would have to be explained,” Sant said.
Ajax said she felt for the victim’s family, but this was a case of self defense. She said De Leon left Joker’s drunk and angry and continued to drink.
People tried to get him to stop, and urged him to let it go, but De Leon invited Thompson to fight.
“Mr. De Leon could not be stopped,” she said. “That’s the sad truth.”
Both De Leon and Howard’s families urged Judge Sam Swanberg to understand their suffering.
Leticia Contreras, De Leon’s mother, told the judge she came home to learn her son was dead.
On Tuesday, Howard’s parents asked for leniency for their son, who has a large family to support.
Swanberg said he appreciated Howard’s comments about wanting to improve himself, but the Richland man’s 2012 federal conviction for trafficking guns weighed on his decision.
He went above the prosecutor and defense attorney’s recommendations and sentenced Howard to the top of the sentencing guidelines.
“I think the most apt words that I heard were from the gentleman who said, ‘There are no winners here today,’” Swanberg said.