The first of six members in a crime ring responsible for a litany of drug-related violence in Manatee and Sarasota counties learned his fate Tuesday morning: multiple life sentences.
Nathaniel Harris was sentenced to multiple life sentences by a federal district court judge in Tampa.
“I have never presided over a case such as this one,” U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Kovachevich said. “It is the worst case we have ever seen in this district because of the very thing we are charged with doing: protecting the community.”
On Sept. 8, a federal court jury of 12 found Harris guilty of racketeering conspiracy, including the kidnapping and murder of Calvin Barnes and murder of Demetrius Cunningham; conspiracy to drug trafficking; maintaining a drug house; use of a firearm to maintain a drug house; armed kidnapping; attempted murder; convicted felon in possession of ammunition; possession with intent to distribute cocaine and crack; use of a firearm to further drug crimes; and of being convicted felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition.
Kovachevich said she had never seen a community come forward like they had in this case to say: “We don’t want these people in our community any longer.”
“And they don’t ever want you back,” Kovachevich said as she looked at Harris.
In the courtroom gallery, victims or loved ones of victims could be heard agreeing with the judge.
Harris turned to glare at the them, but Kovachevich quickly drew his attention back.
“You murdered people with a thought,” Kovachevich told him.
Harris quickly interjected: “I didn’t murder nobody.”
Kovachevich continued, saying that the community had cried out for justice.
Calvin Harris’ mother, Demetrius Cunningham’s father and the armed kidnapping and attempted murder victim were permitted to address the court before Harris was sentenced.
Deatrice Jones, Barnes’ mother, said the last six years had been hard for her, since the youngest of her five children was murdered.
“I just want to know why,” Jones said holding back her sobs. “He was only 16 years old. Why you took my baby?”
After her emotional testimony she quickly walked out of the courtroom to compose herself, before returning moments later.
Pedro Seabrooks, Cunningham’s father, said he had asked God to give him strength to deal with this.
“You will can’t imagine what we are feeling,” Seabrooks told Harris.
But after he served his time, Seabrooks said, “You will have God’s justice to deal with.”
Kovachevich echoed that sentiment during her sentencing.
Deonte Martin, who was found guilty of racketeering conspiracy and other crimes, will be sentenced at 1:30 p.m.
Martin will be sentenced at 1:30 p.m.