Three of the four men on trial for beating a Cobb County man who was later struck by a car and killed were convicted of murder Wednesday afternoon. Following the conviction, deputies had to restore order in the courtroom, where people shouted when the verdicts were announced.
Jekari Oshay Strozier, Antonio Shantwan Pass, Johnathan Donald Anthony and Kemonta Bonds, all from Mableton, were arrested and charged in July 2013 after Joshua Heath Chellew’s death. Chellew, 36, also of Mableton, was repeatedly punched and kicked outside a Chevron gas station, according to investigators. Chellew, badly beaten, eventually stumbled onto Mableton Parkway, where he was run over by a passing vehicle. He died at Grady Memorial Hospital.
“Mr. Chellew didn’t stand a chance,” Jesse Evans, deputy chief assistant district attorney, said in an emailed statement. “It was them against one. He was unarmed, and he was intoxicated. This was a relentless assault. They used their hands and feet to assault him. The defendants just beat him down. Mr. Chellew didn’t do anything to deserve this beating.”
After several days of deliberating, a jury convicted all but Bonds of felony murder, Channel 2 Action News reported. In addition, the three were convicted on voluntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, aggravated battery and gang charges. Bonds was acquitted.
The four men on trial were black while Chellew was white. There were some calls for prosecution as a hate crime but officials determined those charges were not warranted.
The case attracted considerable pre-trial publicity, with numerous conservative-leaning websites claiming that the attack on Chellew was racially motivated.
“If the races had been reversed, this would be the biggest news story in the United States. It would have knocked the (George) Zimmerman trial out of the news,” Top Conservative News noted, a sentiment shared in a blog post on The Daily Caller titled “Why is Joshua Chellew less important than Trayvon Martin?”
The furor died down somewhat after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that surveillance footage from the service station revealed Chellew wasn’t likely singled out because of his race.
As spelled out in the police warrant, Chellew approached the suspects, three of whom were dressed in red, the color associated with the “Bloods” street gang, and taunted them with a blue towel, the color claimed by their longtime rival, the “Crips.”
Prosecutors never proffered a racial motive during the trial.
The three men found guilty could face life sentences. The men will be sentenced at a later date.
— Staff Writer Christian Boone contributed to this report.