A Lexington man was sentenced Thursday to 15 years in prison for the shooting death of another man outside a downtown nightclub.
Robert Louis Benton, 32, had pleaded guilty last month to first-degree manslaughter in the killing of Brian Carr, 19. Carr was shot three times in the back early on May 1, 2011, at Bar Lexington on Main Street.
Benton's attorneys had argued that the shooting was in self-defense; Carr allegedly had robbed Benton at gunpoint several hours before the shooting.
Benton "felt he was defending his life when he did it," public defender Bonnie Potter said Thursday.
Marsha Gerton, Carr's older sister, addressed Benton face to face as she gave a victim impact statement in open court.
"I just want you to know the violence of this crime affected my whole family," Gerton said through tears. "The whole in-the-back thing was ridiculous."
Stephanie Pace, Benton's mother, said during the hearing that the shooting "is not in character for my son. He's always been very quiet, always very outgoing, very caring."
Pace added: "I don't condone the killing and I do apologize" to the Carr family. Pace, turning to the victim's relatives, offered to do anything for them if "they let me know."
Fayette Circuit Judge James Ishmael Jr. said, "It is terribly sad when I sit here ... and young men are shooting other young men. It breaks your heart; it absolutely breaks your heart."
Ishmael said that Benton will eventually leave prison and return home, but "Mr. Carr will not be coming home in 12 years or 15 years or ever.
"I wish someone smarter than me could figure out how we stop young men from shooting other young men," Ishmael said.
Jarshala Kavanaugh, who had planned to marry Benton, said after the sentencing that she is doing her part to tell her sons and other young men to stay out of trouble.
"It all comes down to people choosing to make better decisions," Kavanaugh said.
Benton, the father of nine children, also pleaded guilty to being a persistent felony offender and being a convicted felon in possession of a handgun.
Benton was ineligible for probation, which means he must serve 85 percent of his sentence, almost 13 years, before he will be eligible for parole.
Greg Kocher: (859) 231-3305. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety.