Man who claimed self-defense faces prison time in teen’s fatal punch: ‘boys being boys’
An Ohio man and his younger brother were found not guilty of involuntary manslaughter this week in the 2022 beating death of 17-year-old Ethan Liming on a basketball court in Akron.
A jury found Deshawn Stafford, 20, guilty of assault and aggravated assault and Tyler Stafford, 19, guilty of assault but could not reach a verdict on a second involuntary manslaughter charge filed against Deshawn.
Deshawn faces 18 months in prison for the assault charges compared to the 11 years he faced if convicted of involuntary manslaughter. It is unclear if prosecutors will pursue another trial for that charge.
“On behalf of my client, Deshawn Stafford, all we will do is try and move forward after this terrible tragedy. And that’s what it is. Ethan’s death is a tragedy,” attorney Jon Sinn told Fox News Digital.
“We fought this case … to try and get the truth to come out. And our version of the truth may have been different than the state’s version of the truth. We didn’t agree on much, but we fought very hard, and the jury got to hear both sides.”
The fight that left Liming dead happened around 10:46 p.m. June 2, 2022, near the basketball courts of the I Promise School in Akron, according to police. Officials say Liming died after suffering a blunt force head injury. Trial evidence revealed he died after being punched, when he fell and his head hit on pavement.
The fight began after Liming and his friends, who had been smoking marijuana, drove through Akron on the evening of June 2 shooting at people and objects with an airsoft gun that fires gel water beads.
He and his friends then pulled into the I Promise School parking lot and began shooting the Stafford brothers, who were playing basketball at the time, with the gel-bead gun, and a fight ensued.
The U.S. Marshals Service arrested the Stafford brothers and another suspect days later.
It took a jury three days to deliver a verdict in the case, when it ultimately decided the Staffords had committed their respective assault crimes, Sinn noted.
“A majority of jurors thought that Sean was defending himself during this fight,” Sinn noted. “And that’s why we have the verdict we have, which is guilty of the aggravated assault on Ethan and not guilty on one count of involuntary manslaughter of Ethan. And no decision on the second count of involuntary manslaughter of Ethan.”
Sinn believes “no jury will ever reach a decision” on the second involuntary manslaughter charge filed against Deshawn Stafford.
“We got a fair trial. We were given the opportunity to get the truth out. And the truth is that Deshawn thew a punch that resulted in a very unfortunate tragedy. There was no stomping. There was no hate crime. This wasn’t a racial thing. This was boys being boys,” Sinn said. “And, unfortunately, a punch can lead to tragedy when the concrete takes over.”
Tyler Stafford was emotional in court Monday when the verdict was handed down and his brother was taken into custody, Sinn said. Tyler faces up to six months in jail for the assault conviction.
James Gutierrez, the Liming family’s attorney, told Fox News Digital in a statement that the family is “completely devastated” by Monday’s verdicts.
The family “cannot understand how three young men can get away with viciously beating their son, Ethan, to death.”
“They feel like Ethan has been killed again, and now the Liming Family is victimized by the system and the media for publishing articles that were not only hurtful to the Liming Family but were also simply not true,” Gutierrez said. “This case had nothing to do with race when it happened. The community picked sides and, in a symptom of our society, lost sight of what is simply a matter of right or wrong.”
The family also took issue with the defense’s position that Ethan’s death was the result of his head hitting the concrete.
“That is like saying, ‘I just happened to be holding the gun that killed someone,’” Gutierrez said. “The Liming family yet again was victimized by jury nullification, where the jury ignored proven facts to come back with an inconsistent verdict. As their attorney, to witness the injustice, to witness the grief, the harassment, the cruel and unimaginable things said on social media, reflects how broken we are as a community, as a city and as a nation”