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Gainesville man appeals sentence after contradictory verdicts

POSTED: January 26, 2014 11:54 p.m.

A Gainesville man is seeking to reduce his sentence after a jury acquitted him of multiple assault and gang violence charges in an apartment shooting, but convicted him of having a gun in the commission of a crime.

Though he was not found guilty of the crime itself, only the gun possession charge, Superior Court Judge Bonnie Oliver sentenced Brandon Goss, 21, on Oct. 8 to 60 months of incarceration.

Goss is now scheduled to appear in Hall County Superior Court on March 25 for a sentence modification hearing, which was granted Jan. 8 by Oliver.

The charges, including five counts of aggravated assault and one count of gang terrorism, stemmed from reports of shots fired on Aug. 31, 2011, into an occupied unit at Ridgecrest Apartments, where children were present. No one was injured.

The Gainesville Police Department arrested the then-19-year-old inside another apartment at Ridgecrest and recovered a handgun. He was named a suspect based on residents’ descriptions and eyewitness accounts, police said.

District Attorney Lee Darragh said while it’s impossible to know the exact reasoning of the jury, the verdict is legally allowable.

“Though the verdicts may seem inconsistent ... (it) was a lawful verdict as the ‘inconsistent verdict’ rule was long ago abolished in Georgia,” Darragh said. “If the jury found all of the elements of each crime they convicted of, the verdict was proper, whether or not they convicted of the aggravated assault itself, perhaps in a compromise verdict.”

An attorney handling Goss’ case said the verdict seemed to indicate that while the jury did not know who fired the shots, it believed Goss was in possession of the pistol immediately afterward.

Darragh noted that Goss pleaded guilty to the charge of possession of a gun as a convicted felon, which also stemmed from his arrest in the shooting.

Oliver sentenced Goss to an additional five years of probation on that guilty plea, submitted under the terms of the U.S. Supreme Court case Alford v. North Carolina. In an Alford plea, defendants are allowed to assert their innocence while admitting there could be enough evidence for a conviction.

Goss’ convicted felon status stems from charges of felony possession of marijuana and possession of cocaine.

Oliver ruled that Goss serve the sentence locally, split between one year of jail time, 24 months of prison work camp and 24 months of work release. He was given one year of credit toward the jail sentence for pretrial time already spent in lockup.

Goss is requesting the sentence be further reduced by also awarding credit for nine months spent in jail when his probation was revoked, which can happen before he is actually convicted.

In a handwritten letter requesting the hearing, Goss wrote that he was the sole provider for a supportive family, and that he was a good candidate for alternative sentencing because he had no criminal history of violence.


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