Three men pleaded guilty to roles in the killing of 12-year-old Todriana Peters at a Lower 9th Ward graduation party on Wednesday, handing New Orleans prosecutors an early victory in a sprawling criminal case.
With Peters’ parents watching in silence, the trio admitted to a judge that they were present when a barrage of 60 bullets killed Peters and wounded two men on May 30. They were the first to plead guilty out of a 10-person grand jury indictment returned in August.
One defendant, Pernell Young, acknowledged that he fired a gun as he pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of manslaughter. The other two pleading guilty weren’t shooters, a prosecutor said in court.
Assistant District Attorney Alex Calenda gave one of the fullest public accounts yet of the shooting, which left New Orleanians outraged over the death of a girl who had only finished the 6th grade.
Investigators believe that Young, 19, and other men were in a pair of cars heading from St. Bernard Parish to a graduation party in the 500 block of Delery Street when someone opened fire on Young’s car.
Young’s vehicle was struck “multiple times,” Calenda said. When the cars in his party made their way to Delery Street, they spotted a vehicle which they believed had been used in the earlier shooting.
Seven men from Young’s party opened fire on the vehicle, Calenda said. Two men were injured in the attack. Mortally wounded was Peters, who had been sitting in the car to charge her cellphone. Afterward, the shooters scattered around the city to get rid of evidence, Calenda said.
Ballistics and witness statements corroborated Young having fired a weapon, Calenda said.
Young was originally charged with counts including second-degree murder, which carries a mandatory life without parole sentence.
Under an agreement with the state, Young pleaded guilty to manslaughter, conspiracy to commit second-degree murder, illegal discharge of a weapon during a crime of violence and obstruction of justice. He was sentenced to 10 years on the last count only, with sentencing held open on the other counts.
The most serious charge, manslaughter, carries a 40-year maximum prison term.
Young didn’t speak except to acknowledge a standard set of questions about his guilty plea, including whether he had been pressured into making it. “I’m pleading guilty because of me,” he said.
Young also pleaded guilty to a separate charge of illegal carrying of a weapon. On Sept. 30, 2020, U.S. marshals looking for an “associate” of Young’s in the 3400 block of Humanity Street near the former Desire housing development found Young with a .40-caliber handgun hidden on his person, Calenda said. Young received the maximum, six-month sentence on that count.
Young’s attorney, Bradley Phillips, declined comment.
Also pleading guilty were Marcus Venible, 18, and Tyrese Riley, 19.
Both received eight years in prison on counts of conspiring to commit second-degree murder and conspiring to commit the illegal discharge of a weapon during a crime of violence, and five years on accessory after the fact to second-degree murder.