Brooke Kennedy, 18, one of five people charged in the December shooting death of 21-year-old Jared Banta, pleaded guilty Tuesday to felony charges.
Kennedy stood before Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate and pleaded guilty to first-degree complicity to robbery, a Class B felony, and criminal facilitation to murder, a Class D felony.
According to court documents, co-defendant Paige Young told police that she, Kennedy and co-defendant Cameron Montgomery wanted to go shopping and had conspired with alleged triggerman Krishaun Mays and Kedrick Burton to rob Banta for a share of the money.
Young allegedly lured Banta to Country Hills Apartments under the guise of a marijuana deal, with the plan for Mays and Burton to rob him. Banta was found dead in his car the next morning from a gunshot wound to his torso.
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Kennedy, who was originally charged with complicity to murder, a capital offense could be sentenced in June to 15 years in prison. She could be eligible for parole in eight to 10 years or serve out her time in 12 to 13 years, accounting for the time she has been in jail.
Relatives of Banta were in the courtroom but did not wish to comment.
Investigation records revealed that on Dec. 26, Kennedy texted Montgomery with instructions to shoot video from her apartment window and to first turn off the lights so no one would see the blinds move.
Kennedy told Montgomery to “get a good video” of Kennedy “hitting a lick,” which is slang for making fast cash. But the intended victim figured out he was being set up and didn’t show.
Ten minutes later, Kennedy texted again, “setting a lick” and “this is a crazy one,” referring to Banta just minutes before his death. Kennedy told Montgomery that a gun would be pointed at Banta’s head.
Kennedy’s attorney, Erica Roland, said the charges that her client pleaded guilty to were appropriate.
“Brooke feels terrible about what happened and her role in it,” Roland said. “We think this is a fair resolution, and the offer and charges really do reflect what Brooke did that night. What these kids did, I mean, they made terrible decisions and a tragic mistake happened. We are just happy that we were able to get resolution that gives her a second chance, a fresh start when she gets out.”
Kennedy stated in her police interview that Mays and Burton had asked the three women to lure Banta to Country Hills Apartments because it lacked security cameras.
According to phone records, all three had previous plans to go shopping in Lexington. They exchanged several late-night texts in Lexington after Banta’s death.
The four co-defendants remain in Franklin County Regional Jail, each on a $500,000 cash bond. Kennedy, who also is at the jail, is to be sentenced June 30.
Last week, Burton asked for a bond reduction. Earlier, Wingate denied bond reductions for Young and Montgomery.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Larry Cleveland said Kennedy’s guilty plea is necessary for convicting the others. Kennedy has agreed to cooperate in the investigation and prosecution of her co-defendants.
“It was necessary because certain evidentiary rules and case law prohibit using a statement of one of these co-defendants against another co-defendant at trial unless there was testimony,” Cleveland said. “You need to get a guilty plea from one of the participants to have that person testify against others. That’s what this accomplished. She will be able to testify to the activities of Mays, Montgomery, Young and Burton.”
According to the plea agreement, Kennedy will provide a statement about the events leading to Banta’s death. Young, Montgomery and Burton remain charged with complicity to murder and complicity to robbery. Mays is charged with murder and first-degree robbery.