Devaughn Aleir Best and Olvin Roleir Shepherd were sentenced in San Joaquin County Superior Court after pleading guilty to burglary and manufacturing of a controlled substance, according to Deputy District Attorney Todd Turner.
The charges were related to a drug lab built inside an apartment at 1441 Parker Ave. that exploded Feb. 17, 2012, while the men were converting marijuana into a drug known as honey oil, Turner said.
Best and Shepherd were burned in the blast, along with an unidentified woman.
During separate hearings on Monday, Best received a three-year sentence and Shepherd was sentenced to five years because of his earlier conviction for drug possession, Turner said. He noted that both men had agreed to the guilty pleas to allow a superior court judge to decide their prison time.
Relatives of Shepherd spoke emotionally at his sentencing hearing before Judge Franklin Stephenson, seeking to minimize his prison time.
“Today has been a rollercoaster emotionally for me,” said Desiree Miller, aunt to both men.
“I apologize to society,” she said. “They have made bad choices. I am asking for your mercy today. Three young people were severely burned. I do believe these young men learned a vital lesson.”
Rihana Miller told the judge that Shepherd, her cousin, would be taken from his 15-year-old sister and that he had been taking online college courses to earn a degree. She said that he and Best would already to have to live with their actions, with their burn scars as daily reminders.
“At age 23, Devaughn and Olvin made a stupid mistake,” she said. “Have mercy on my cousin.”
Defense attorney Vittoria Monica Bossi told the judge that Shepherd had changed in the past two years. Even the woman who was severely injured in the explosion did not want to see the defendants go to prison, Bossi said.
Bossi asked the judge to consider a three-year sentence, like Best’s, despite Shepherd’s prior conviction. She explained that Shepherd had developed addictions after his mother became ill and died, but he’d been trying to change his life.
Bossi also said the two men could be deported to their native country of Barbados, and having the same sentence would enable them to go together if that were to happen.
The two men are not U.S. citizens and their immigration status is unclear.
As Stephenson explained his reasoning for favoring a prison term over probation, Shepherd’s relatives sobbed inside the courtroom. The judge called the upper term of five years an appropriate sentence for Shepherd’s actions.
Turner said after the hearing that he felt the rulings were fair and that the judge could have given Best and Shepherd longer sentences based on the charges.
Both men remain incarcerated in San Joaquin County Jail in French Camp.
•Contact Denise Ellen Rizzo at firstname.lastname@example.org or 830-4225.