A man originally charged as an accomplice in a shooting spree at a downtown fast-food restaurant pleaded guilty Monday to assault and rioting.
Nathaniel Dishneau, 19, was set to stand trial next month on seven counts of attempted first-degree murder.
Rather than risk being convicted at trial, Dishneau pleaded guilty Monday to two less-serious felonies.
His sentencing will be Oct. 4.
If he had been convicted of multiple counts of attempted murder, Dishneau could have faced more than 80 years in prison.
The usual sentence for second-degree assault is 22 to 29 months. Dishneau will receive credit for seven months spent in jail since his arrest in February.
Appearing in court Monday, Dishneau admitted being at the Jack in the Box restaurant Dec. 19. He also said he was with the man who jumped out of a car and began shooting at people that night, but he insisted he had no part in what happened.
“He doesn’t know who the person is and doesn’t know his name,” said his defense attorney, Chris Phelps.
Prosecutors could not be reached for comment Monday.
Last month, prosecutors took 19-year-old Lamont Brooks to trial as the man with Dishneau on Dec. 19.
Before a jury could be picked, prosecutors dismissed all charges against Brooks after a judge determined that three witnesses possibly had been tainted by a flawed police photo lineup.
Judge Robert Austin said the witnesses had “likely been tainted” by a photo montage that depicted Brooks in such a way as to suggest he was the suspect in the shootings. Out of six mug shots of African-American men, Brooks’ photo was centered on the sheet and the most prominent, Austin said.
After the charges against Brooks were dismissed, “prosecutors were faced with some evidentiary issues” in proceeding with charges against Dishneau, Phelps said.
Phelps said Dishneau met the shooter at a party earlier on the night of Dec. 19. The man suggested they go to another party, and Dishneau agreed to drive there, Phelps said. They stopped for a snack at the Jack in the Box at Third and Stevens and were in Dishneau’s car when another auto parked nearby.
“A guy in the other car began flashing gang signs at the passenger with Nathaniel,” said Phelps.
The man in Dishneau’s car jumped out and ran toward the other car. At that point, the person who flashed gang signs ran off, pursued by Dishneau’s passenger, who fired several times with a 9 mm pistol.
As the shooter hurried back toward Dishneau’s car, he fired about a dozen shots into three parked cars. None of the occupants was injured.
Phelps said Dishneau decided then to leave without the shooter and began closing his car’s passenger-side door.
But Dishneau had to change his mind.
“When the shooter gets back to the car, Nathaniel now knows he can’t say, `You can’t get in,’ not after what just happened,” Phelps said.
Dishneau drove off and the two men later parted company, according to Phelps.
“My client was really a victim of circumstances. He was not an accomplice, which I think we established pretty clearly,” added Phelps.
The guilty pleas entered Monday were Alford pleas - meaning Dishneau is not admitting guilt but realizes he might be convicted by a jury of the charges.
“We did this to avoid the perils of trial. My client did not want to be another black man on the witness stand, facing trial on charges the community had become excited about,” Phelps said.