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Highlights of the Sentencing Hearing in Andre Bonner’s Zodiac Murder Case

Andre Bonner

By Dave Oedel

After Andre Bonner, 32, was convicted on May 2, 2015 by a jury in Bibb County, Georgia, of murder and other charges for the 2013 killing at Macon’s Zodiac Lounge of Jamonni Bland, 17, Bibb County Superior Court Judge Howard Simms sentenced Bonner on May 6, 2015 to life without the possibility of parole. Then Simms tacked on 15 years for gang-affiliated charges, plus 5 more for gun possession by a felon. The extra time was largely an idle gesture in Bonner’s case, but was apparently intended to make a meaningful point to those claiming affiliation with the Westside Mafia.

I attended the sentencing hearing, and it was interesting in several ways.

First, there was little to nothing offered in the way of testimonials on behalf either of the victim, Bland, or the defendant, Bonner. Both of them seem to have been largely adrift in their communities.

After hammering the powerful evidence on the basic murder charges, prosecutor Sandra Matson … Continue Reading

Commissioner Al Tillman on Crime, Gangs and Change in Macon-Bibb

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The Monitor caught up this week with Al Tillman, District 9 commissioner on the Macon-Bibb Commission who represents the Bloomfield, Unionville and Ingleside neighborhoods. Tillman formerly served as branch president of the Macon NAACP, and is the founder of UNITY-N-Community, a local community service organization. He works as a booking agent for entertainers who appear in venues from Georgia to California.

With gang affiliation being part of cultural life in significant portions of his district, Tillman shared some reactions to the controversy about the prosecution, conviction and sentencing this week of Andre Bonner to life without parole for murder in a bar fight, and 15 extra years tacked on for related gang charges.

Monitor: What was your take on the prosecution, conviction and sentencing of Andre Bonner?

Commissioner Tillman: It wasn’t surprising to me. David Cooke, the district attorney, has been up front all along that he was going to model himself on a gang prosecutor in north Georgia who went after gangs hard. David’s been doing that, and Judge Howard Simms … Continue Reading

Senator David Perdue in Quick Reversal

Perdue

By Dave Oedel

Georgia’s freshman U.S. Senator David Perdue gave his first major speech on the Senate floor on April 27, 2015, decrying President Barack Obama’s usurpation of presidential power as unconstitutional.

But then in the following days, Perdue repeatedly capitulated to the administration’s will on the bill that would lift financial sanctions against the Iranians in connection with some modification of Iran’s nuclear program. Perdue was one of only eight Republicans who voted against an amendment to the Iran-related legislation that, before lifting sanctions, would have required that the Iranians be … Continue Reading

Parenting and Policing Problems Behind the Zodiac Lounge Conviction

Andre Bonner

 

By Dave Oedel

After a carefully, professionally conducted week-long trial in Bibb County Superior Court by both prosecution and defense counsel, Andre Maurice Bonner, whose mug shot accompanies this article, was convicted on May 1, 2015 of murder and gang-related charges in the death of Jamonni Bland, 17. Bland suffered four gunshots to the back, chest and knee during the wee hours of July 5, 2013, and died on the cement floor of the underground parking deck adjacent to the Zodiac Lounge, now Icon, near the corner of Walnut and Broadway in downtown Macon.

Parking garage where Jamonni Bland was shot dead on July 5, 2013 at 3:30 a.m. in Macon, Georgia .  Entrance to the nightclub is on the right, around the corner from the "Open" sign.

Parking garage where Jamonni Bland was shot dead on July 5, 2013 at 3:30 a.m. in Macon, Georgia . Entrance to the nightclub is on the right, around the corner from the “Open” sign.

Based on normal legal standards, Bonner’s basic murder conviction should be unshakeable on appeal, and appeal on that basic conviction is therefore doubtful. Sentencing is scheduled for Wednesday, May 6, by Bibb Superior Court Judge Howard Simms.  Gang-related enhancements, more legally questionable, were also found by the jury.

It was toward the end of a long night of July 4th revelry around Macon that things began to get dicey … Continue Reading

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