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On a June night in 2007, 8-year-old Liquarry Jefferson and his younger cousin were watching television at his Roxbury home. Liquarry brought out a handgun. It was unregistered. And unsecured.
It belonged to Liquarry's stepbrother, a 15-year-old member of a local gang, who kept the gun in his unlocked bedroom dresser.
It was a 9mm semi-automatic.
"I asked (Liquarry) if there were bullets in the gun. He said no," the 7-year-old cousin would testify.
When the cousin pulled the trigger, he fired a single bullet into Liquarry's stomach. The cousin ran out screaming.
"I did it by accident," he testified. Liquarry Jefferson died on the operating table at Boston Medical Center.
Three years and a couple months after his death, Liquarry's mother, Lakeisha Gadson, entered a Suffolk County Superior Court room Thursday for sentencing. A jury had convicted her last month of lying to police about the circumstances of Liquarry's death.
"By giving false descriptions of intruders who never came into her apartment and by counseling her children to do the same thing, the defendant put the cover-up of this crime ahead of a search for the truth," Assistant District Attorney David Deakin said during Thursday's court proceedings.
Deakin told the judge that Gadson didn't call 911 until after she'd made sure her teenage son disposed of the gun and after they had made up a story of three men breaking in and shooting.
Gadson's defense attorney, Peter Krupp, attributed her actions to grief and shock and downplayed the efforts at deception.
"None of the police officers who heard this statement — that three people ran in the house — believed it," Krupp said Thursday.
The story Gadson told police and the story told by her teenage son, Jayquan McConnico, fell apart quickly. Within a day, Gadson publicly apologized for lying to police. And McConnico, who'd been keeping the gun in his bedroom drawer, would later plead guilty to manslaughter in his stepbrother's death.
When Gadson, now the mother of four children, went to trial at the beginning of August, the prosecution argued that by allowing her teenage son to keep a loaded handgun in her house, or by keeping it there herself, Gadson was responsible for Liquarry's death.
But the jurors acquitted Gadson of involuntary manslaughter and all but one charge.
"Lakeisha Gadson's conduct was reprehensible on many levels. The jury has spoken and we're left with this one charge of misleading the police," said Suffolk District Attorney Dan Conley.
And on that conviction, the district attorney sought a sentence of two-and-a-half years in jail, with one year to be served.
"We need to send a very strong message to the public," Conley said, "this kind of conduct can not be tolerated."
A History Of Crime
Gadson, 34, sat somberly, her eyes darting. Since the death of her 8-year-old, her's has become the family that symbolizes multi-generational crime. She had five children with three different fathers, all gang members with extensive records of violent crime and jail time. And police believe the father of her youngest child brought her oldest one, Jayquan, into the same gang.
Gadson herself has a long record of larcenies and assault and battery.
"The court cannot overlook the fact that the defendant has 19 prior convictions, 11 previous incidents, and the court takes as great significance two convictions for assault and battery on a police officer," said Suffolk Superior Court Judge Thomas Connors.
Gadson's defense attorney, Krupp, successfully argued at the trial that there was no evidence that she knew or approved of her teenage son having a gun in her house. He asked the jurors not to compound the tragedy of Liquarry's death by convicting her. Thursday, he asked the judge not to send her to jail.
"Ms. Gadson has already lost her son; it's a punishment that is greater than any punishment the court can impose, obviously" Krupp said.
In the end, Judge Connors said that the true victim was the child, Liquarry Jefferson.
The court is imposing a sentence of two and a half years to the House of Corrections," Connors said. But he suspended all but six months that she will actually serve.
As Gadson's mother, who's now the legal guardian of Gadson's surviving children, looked on, the handcuffs snapped shut. And the rest of the sentence was read: ordering four years probation and a course on parenting.
This program aired on September 3, 2010.
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