An expert weighs in after the Olympic gymnast’s brother was charged with six counts of murder to find out what kind of trouble he may facing following his Aug. 29 arrest.
Simone Biles’ brother, Tevin Biles-Thomas, 24, was arrested on Aug. 29 in connection to a triple homicide in Cleveland, Ohio where he currently sits in a Liberty County jail until a Sept. 13 arraignment. Tevin was charged with six counts of murder, three counts of voluntary manslaughter, five counts of felonious assault, and one count of perjury in connection with a shooting at a New Year’s Eve party which took place at an Airbnb rental apartment resulting in the death of Devaughn Gibson, 23, DelVaunte Johnson, 19, and Toshon Banks, 21. The deaths were a result of a fight that reportedly broke out after a group of men showed up uninvited to the party, were asked to leave, and gunfire ensued, according to the Cleveland Division of Police and Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office.
HollywoodLife spoke EXCLUSIVELY with Ohio state criminal defense attorney Bryan Bowen, at Luftman, Heck, & Associates, to explain what kind of trouble Tevin might be facing given his current charges. “In Ohio, the murder charges are punishable by a mandatory prison sentence of 15 years to life,” Bowen explained. “The voluntary manslaughter charges are felonies of the first-degree, which carry a penalty of three to 11 years in prison. The felonious assaults are second-degree felonies, with a maximum penalty of two to eight years. A defendant can theoretically receive probation for these offenses, but there is a presumption in favor of prison, and the likelihood of a probation sentence is pretty low.”
“The perjury charge is a third-degree felony, punishable by a sentence of one to three years, but also could carry a sentence of probation for up to five years,” Bowen said. “Theoretically, if Mr. Biles-Thomas were convicted of all of the charges, a number of them would merge for purposes of sentencing, meaning he would only be sentenced on the most serious charge pertaining to each particular victim.” As to whether or not Biles-Thomas faces life in prison, Bowen said: “Unfortunately, there’s still way too much that we don’t know to give an accurate answer. Some of the charges he’s facing clearly carry that as a potential penalty, but there’s no way of knowing what, if anything, he’ll eventually plead guilty to, or be found guilty of. For all we know now, he could be completely exonerated.”
We asked Bowen what defense strategies Biles-Thomas’ team may attempt in his case. “Without more information about what exactly happened that night, that’s a very difficult question to answer. We don’t know whether Mr. Biles-Thomas was at the party or with the group that arrived at the party, or whether he was even there at all,” Bowen explained. “We don’t know if the state is alleging that he had a gun, or whether they’re essentially charging him as some sort of complicitor. Perhaps the most important defense strategy at this point in the process is for his defense attorneys to thoroughly investigate – probably with the help of hired investigators – so that they have as complete of an understanding as possible of the situation. Once they know all they can about the facts, they can best advise Mr. Biles-Thomas about the risks and rewards of a trial or some sort of negotiated plea.”
HollywoodLife asked Bowen to further explain what a Biles-Thomas’ role as a “complicitor” in this situation meant and he explained, “Under Ohio law, a complicitor is someone who aids or abets the commission of an offense, or solicits someone else to commit an offense. So, if I hired you to murder someone and you did it, even though I didn’t actually do the murder, I’m a complicitor. Or, if I know that you plan to kill someone, I give you a gun, or I hide you after you do it, etc. It’s very similar to conspiracy. Again, under Ohio law, the complicitor has the same criminal liability as the principal actor. So, in my first example, I’d be guilty of murder if I hired you to do the actual killing.”
The Cleveland Division of Police and Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office released a joint statement on Aug. 30 that said, “On December 31, 2018, numerous people attended a New Year’s Eve party at a residence near Denison Avenue and W. 45th Street. Around 11:30pm, an uninvited group walked into the house and an altercation ensued between the uninvited guests and those who were invited. The altercation led to gunfire and multiple victims were shot, three of which were fatal. Several party attendees fled the scene. Cleveland Police responded to the scene immediately. DelVaunte Johnson, 19, and Toshaun Banks, 21, were pronounced deceased at the scene. Devaughn Gibson, 23, was transported to the hospital where he was pronounced deceased. Cleveland Police’s Homicide Unit conducted an investigation and identified Tevin Biles-Thomas as a shooter in the incident.”
still having a hard time processing last weeks news pic.twitter.com/GU0nQt2PZY
— Simone Biles (@Simone_Biles) September 3, 2019
Meanwhile, Simone broke her silence shortly Tevin’s arrest with a short tweet that read: “Eating my feelings don’t talk to me.” The Olympic gymnast took to Twitter once again on Sept. 2 to share a statement where she addressed the triple murder arrest. “There is nothing that I can say that will heal anyone’s pain, but I do want to express my sincere condolences to everyone affected by this terrible tragedy,” she wrote, adding the following request: “I ask everyone to please respect my family’s privacy as we deal with our pain. XO.” Simone captioned the tweet, “Still having a hard time processing last weeks [sic] news.”