Trial underway for man accused of killing U football player

by Brian Stensaas

TBy Brian Stensaas and Jake Weyer The trial of the man accused of fatally shooting University football player Brandon Hall began Thursday.

Jermain Octavious Stansberry, 28, is charged with prohibited possession of a firearm, first-degree aggravated robbery and second-degree murder for an incident last fall that ended in Hall’s death.

Following opening arguments Thursday, the jury heard testimony from prosecution witnesses, including several Gophers football players, who identified Stansberry as the shooter.

In a telephone interview, Stansberry’s lawyer, David McCormick, blamed the shooting on co-defendant Raymond Hardimon, 23, who pleaded guilty earlier this year to charges of first-degree aggravated robbery. Police arrested Hardimon on the date of Hall’s death, but he was never charged with murder.

Witnesses said the shooter was wearing a white No. 23 Washington Wizards basketball jersey. Police said Stansberry was wearing the jersey when arrested.

“You don’t even need to pull that all the way out; I know what that is,” said University junior and Gophers football player Darrell Reid when prosecutor Robert Streitz began removing the jersey from an evidence bag.

Other witnesses testifying included Hall’s girlfriend, police officers, a security officer, a valet attendant and others who were in the area at the time of the shooting.

McKormick said the football players were confused about the shooter’s identity. During cross-examination he asked witnesses about the environment and where the people were at the time of the shooting. He questioned the witnesses’ ability to recall their statements to police.

Stansberry was animated throughout Friday’s proceedings. On several occasions he shook his head, quietly chuckled and dismissively waved to disagree with some of the witnesses.

According to the court complaint, Minneapolis police were alerted to a fight at 1:30 a.m. on Sept. 1, 2002, in the area of Fourth Street and First Avenue.

Damian Haye, a former Gophers football player, had been robbed and beaten unconscious after intervening in a fight between three males and two females, the complaint said.

Prosecution witnesses said other football players were called to the scene by teammates to help Haye and confront his attackers.

The complaint outlines two separate confrontations – police broke up the first using pepper spray, and the other resulted in Hall’s death.

Hennepin County attorneys said they expect the trial to continue until midweek.

Stansberry could serve 15-year, 20-year and 40-year sentences for the three charges.

Senior Gophers tight end and co-captain Ben Utecht said while the memories of Hall will be with teammates every day, they do not see the trial for his alleged shooter as a nuisance.

“(The trial) is not a distraction,” Utecht said Saturday. “It’s the opposite – a motivation. A lot of the guys are going to take this as an opportunity to realize how important life is.”

Brian Stensaas welcomes comments at [email protected] and Jake Weyer welcomes comments at [email protected]