A jury found Sharod Farran Johnson guilty on all charges, including murder, for his involvement in three armed robberies in 2010, the last of which led to the fatal shooting of a security guard at the Ingles where he worked.
Johnson, 21, received two life sentences plus 20 years with the possibility of parole.
The 12-member jury announced the verdict Monday after about two hours of deliberation, also convicting Johnson of armed robbery, aggravated assault and burglary.
The charges stemmed from robberies that occurred: Aug. 25, 2010, at the Waffle House on Bethelview Road; Aug. 26, 2010, at the Chevron on Buford Highway at James Burgess Road; and Sept. 5, 2010, at Ingles on Canton Road.
Forsyth County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey S. Bagley said though Johnson didn’t fatally shoot David Casto, the 37-year-old security guard, the jury found him responsible for the murder.
Nakitta Holmes, 21, pleaded guilty in April 2012 to shooting Casto and received life in prison without parole.
During closing arguments, Forsyth County District Attorney Penny Penn said testimony and other evidence presented during the trial showed Johnson planned the robbery of the store where he was employed. According to Penn, he provided a shotgun and getaway car and let the other three men, including Holmes, in the back door.
Those actions made Johnson “directly responsible” for the murder of Casto, a man he knew, Penn said.
“He was set up by this defendant, he was betrayed by this defendant, and he was lured to his death by this defendant,” she said. “He is responsible, and now he must be held accountable.”
Bagley said the crimes committed were of such magnitude that Johnson deserves to be in prison for a long period of time.
“What I find most disturbing,” he said before issuing the sentence, “is your lack of remorse both that morning after [the murder], through the trial and today.”
Johnson spoke quietly, facing Bagley. He asked to be eligible for parole so he could have “the chance to redeem myself.”
“I’m sorry again for what happened,” he said.
His attorney, Bobby Wilson, asked for the minimum required life sentence with the possibility of parole.
Though he is “legally and technically” responsible for the murder per the jury’s verdict, Wilson said Johnson never thought anyone would even be injured during the robberies, which were like a video game for the youth living in the “shadow world of drugs.”
“I do separate him from the Nakitta Holmes of the case,” Wilson said before sentencing.
Holmes reportedly shot Casto execution-style after taking the guard’s own 9mm gun.
Penn read a letter from Casto’s mother, who lives in Ohio and couldn’t attend court. She wrote that her son was a hard worker, with two jobs, and had many friends.
He considered Johnson a friend, she wrote.
“This young man is worse than his co-defendants,” the letter stated. “Knowing that his trust was literally killed in his last moments is devastating.”
Penn agreed that Johnson putting his co-workers through the trauma of an armed robbery showed disregard for them.
“We’ve seen what he does to his friends. I can only imagine what he does to strangers,” Penn said. “Prison is where he needs to be.”
The state recommended the sentence that Bagley gave to Johnson.
Three co-defendants remain in the case, including two who were charged with involvement in the Ingles robbery.
Tyrice Kendall Adside, 21, and Tavarius Jackson, 19, face the same charges as Johnson.
Adside testified during Johnson’s trial, which was a condition of a plea deal offered to him by the state.
A guilty plea will get him a sentence of 50 years, with 25 to serve. He could otherwise be facing three life sentences, plus 60 years for all the charges.
Holmes was expected to testify in the possible trials of his four co-defendants in the robberies, but refused to do so during Johnson’s trial. That was in violation of his plea agreement, which “puts the death penalty back on the table,” Penn said.
The fifth co-defendant, 21-year-old Darren Jerrard Slayton, has been charged with aggravated assault and armed robbery for participating in the crimes at Waffle House and Chevron. He is expected to enter a guilty plea.