Brooks’ defense attorney points to another shooter

BRADENTON — Former Lakewood Ranch High School quarterback Tim Brooks is on trial accused of killing William White Jr., but Brooks’ defense attorney is pointing to a second man arrested in the case as the possible shooter.

Brooks’ trial began late Tuesday after attorneys finished picking a jury of three men and 11 women, including two alternates. He is charged with first-degree murder and robbery with a firearm.

During opening statements, Assistant State Attorney Art Brown pointed out Brooks, 19, in the courtroom as White’s shooter during a July 13, 2008, robbery.

“There was no need for this man to be brandishing a gun,” Brown said. “But he quickly made his motives known by committing a robbery.”

White, 19, was riding as a passenger in a car driven by Jakob Cunnien, 18, when White was shot by Brooks after the pair brought drugs in the area of 27th Avenue Drive East, according to Brown.

But Brooks’ attorney, Assistant Public Defender Peter Belmont, implicated another man charged with first-degree murder in the killing of White. There are witnesses who say Cody Rogers fired a gun on the night White died, and that Brooks was not even there, Belmont said during his opening statement.

Rogers, 19, is scheduled to go on trial early next year on a murder charge in White’s killing. But prosecutors say Brooks pulled the trigger, and Rogers is accused of murder because he aided Brooks in the robbery that led to White’s death.

“There are witnesses who say Cody cocked a gun and a bullet flies from the gun into the street,” Belmont said.

Cunnien may also be a key witness in the trial, as he is expected to testify against Brooks. But since White’s death, Cunnien has had his own run-ins with the law, including being shot by law enforcement in October, and an arrest Monday, just hours before jury selection began in the Brooks trial.

Brown told Circuit Judge Debra Riva in court Tuesday during a break in jury selection that Cunnien had been arrested, but it is unclear what effect his arrest may have on further proceedings.

Manatee County Sheriff’s Office reports show Cunnien forged a check in September and presented it to a clerk at a local Amscot branch in exchange for money.

The forgery charge stems from an investigation by sheriff’s detectives of Cunnien, who was believed to have been burglarizing vehicles. The check he presented at Amscot was stolen in one of the burglaries, according to sheriff’s officials. But a burglary charge in the case has been dropped.

In October, sheriff’s detectives had Cunnien under surveillance when he allegedly drove a car at a deputy, who opened fire on Cunnien hitting him in the arm.

Cunnien was charged with aggravated assault with a motor vehicle, fleeing to elude and driving with a suspended a driver’s license in connection with the shooting. Those charges are still pending.

Since the shooting, prosecutors issued a warrant on the forgery charge, for which Cunnien was arrested Monday. He has since been released from jail on $4,000 bond.

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