Dival Nygee Magwood sat at the defense table in the stately federal courtroom, handcuffed and shackled, flanked by his two attorneys and guarded by two U.S. Marshals.
Magwood, 24, was the third and final defendant to be sentenced for killing 9-year-old Z’Yon Person in Durham three years ago.
Prosecutors argued Antonio Nathaniel Davenport Jr. , Derrick Lamont Dixon and Magwood were members of the Braggtown-based Northside Eight Trey Gangster Crips.
Around 8:30 p.m. on Aug 18, 2019, the three men mistook Z’Yon’s aunt’s SUV for rival gang members and opened fire, killing Z’Yon and shooting his then 8-year-old cousin in the arm as they were on the way to get snow cones.
The three Crips were seeking revenge after Davenport, also known as former 83 Babies rapper “Lil Tony,” had been jumped days earlier at The Streets at Southpoint mall.
Prosecutors said the people who attacked Davenport were in the O’Block gang, which posted a video of the assault on social media, shaming Davenport and his gang.
In July a jury found Davenport, 27, guilty of three federal murder, gun and racketeering charges. He was sentenced to life in prison plus 10 years on Tuesday.
Dixon and Magwood pleaded guilty to charges before Davenport’s trial, and Dixon was also sentenced to life in prison Tuesday.
But Magwood’s actions and cooperation in the case complicated U.S. Middle District of North Carolina Judge William Osteen’s decision, he said.
‘A target on his back’
Z’Yon’s mother testified Tuesday that Magwood should still get a life sentence, just like the family is now living without the rising fourth grader who loved to play football and give hugs.
Assistant U.S. Attorney JoAnna McFadden argued for Magwood to be sentenced to 25 years, minus a 19-month federal sentence Magwood served on a possession by a felon charge.
Defense attorney Darrin Jordan argued Magwood should be sentenced to 262 months, or about 22 years.
The judge explained he considered sentencing factors such as the seriousness of the offense, general deterrence, the safety of the public and the history and the history and characteristics of the defendant.
On one hand, Osteen said, Magwood was a confessed shooter for the Crips. He was in the front seat of Davenport’s maroon Honda Accord on the hunt for gang rivals when Dixon and Davenport opened fired on the SUV and killed Z’Yon.
Magwood testified he would have taken a shot if he could, but his positioning in the car blocked his shot.
On the other hand, the judge said, after Magwood was arrested he cooperated with prosecutors and police, educating the jury and others during Davenport’s trial on the ins and out of gang life and some of his misdeeds as a Crips “demon,” the title for shooters.
His testimony allowed prosecutors to convict Davenport of not just murder, McFadden said, but murder and other crimes to aid in racketeering for the Eight Trey Gangster Crips.
Magwood’s actions have also put him in danger, his attorney noted, as the gang considers cooperating with police an action that is punishable by death.
“He’s scared,” Jordan said. “He knows he has a target on his back.”
Joined a gang in eighth grade
Magwood grew up in the Oxford Manor public housing complex, which is Eight Trey Gangster Crips Braggtown territory, he testified during Davenport’s trail. His father was paraplegic after being shot months before his death, according to statements in court Wednesday, and his mother was unreliable.
He joined the gang when he was in eighth grade, he said. He thought the gang members were cool, he said, and he looked up to some of them.
Members were expected to “put in work” and could gain higher ranks through shootings at rivals known as “opps,” along with other crimes such as robberies, breaking and entering and selling drugs.
By 17, Magwooed was homeless, going from couch to couch.
His safety net wasn’t a teacher or his family, Jordan said, it was the gang who was showing him the attention and support he needed and wanted.
Jordan tried to argue how Magwood’s environment shaped him, but Osteen was skeptical of that argument. Osteen pointed out that there are likely others who live in Oxford Manor who have similar or worse pasts, but they didn’t make the decision to join a gang and pick up a gun.
“There are a lot of people who made different choices,” Osteen said.
Osteen said Magwood’s actions were a result of an attraction to the gang, not a compulsion.
“If that is what led him to that decision ... this sentence needs to somehow remove that attraction,” Osteen said.
The difficulties should be considered, Osteen said, but how much it weighs is more complicated.
“Mr. Magwood took his bad situation and turned it outward into the community that ultimately led to the death of Z’Yon Person,” Osteen said.
‘Send a message’
During the sentencing hearing, Magwood read a letter to the court, apologizing for his part in the killing.
He said he would spend his life trying to gain Z’Yon’s family’s forgiveness.
As Osteen weighed Magwood’s sentence, he asked what he could do as judge to deter the culture of violence witnesses said is thriving in Durham — and how his decision might affect others who consider cooperating with law enforcement.
“We want to send a message,” he said.
Magwood said that it would takes steps, such as him coming forward and saying “the things were doing wasn’t right.”
The judge’s sentence
After a 2 1/2 hour hearing, Osteen sentenced Magwood to two concurrent sentences of 23 years in prison.
The sentence was reduced to 22 years after Magwood was given credit for serving 19 months on a previous fedearl possession of a firearm by a felon conviction.
After Magwood gets out, he will serve five years of probation.
When asked how she felt at the conclusion of the sentencing, Z’Yon’s mother said she remains numb.
“I am still devastated,” Ashley Ragland said.
Ragland thanked Magwood for his cooperation, but pointed out that while he will be able to build a life after prison, she will never see Z’Yon again.
Ragland said kids in Durham need more recreation opportunities and more agencies reaching out to kids like Magwood, whose environmental current carries them to them toward crime, to help them make better decisions.
“If we don’t have that, nothing is going to change,” she said.
During the courtroom discussion about Magwood’s sentence, she said she didn’t know how to feel. But she knows that she won’t go back to Durham.
“Durham has destroyed a lot of families,” she said. “Especially mine.”