Jury comes to quick decision, convicts Jacob Sponaugle on attempted murder
The testimony of Jason Whitehead and Crystal Schultz helped lead to the conviction of Jacob Sponaugle of attempted murder at the end of a three-day trial, said District Attorney Lawrence Friedman, who won a conviction in his final case of a 40-year prosecutorial career.
"I think that we had a very strong case," Friedman said after a jury found Sponaugle guilty on all counts. "I mean, we had, as I argued to the jury, in my summation, we had two witnesses, who had no connection, didn't know each other before, have had no contact, since I've never discussed this case. And they basically told the same version of what happened in great detail."
Jacob Sponaugle shot Whitehead in a gun deal gone bad outside the Days Inn in Batavia the night of July 22, 2020.
The jury deliberated for 90 minutes, with a break to ask Judge Charles Zambito to read back the jury instructions on the attempted murder charge, and found Sponaugle guilty of all the charges against him:
- Attempted Murder 2nd, a Class B violent felony
- Assault in the first degree, a Class B violent felony;
- Criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree, a Class C violent felony;
- Aggravated criminal possession of a weapon, a Class C violent felony;
- Criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree, a Class D felony;
- Criminal using a firearm in the first degree, a Class B violent felony;
- Criminal using a firearm in the fist degree, a Class B violent felony;
"(It) was a relatively brief deliberation considering the seriousness of the charges and the number of charges, and they (the jury) just basically didn't seem to have any problem with any of the evidence. They believed the witnesses and I think for them, it was straightforward," Friedman said.
Sponaugle faces a possible maximum prison term of 30 years (25 years max on the attempted murder charge with a required five years consecutive on one of the weapons charges). He will be sentenced on Dec. 15.
Whitehead testified that Sponaugle contacted him on July 22 attempting to sell him a gun. They haggled over the price and then Whitehead decided he might be able to sell it to Devon Wright, a Batavia resident.
The three men arranged to meet outside the Days Inn.
Schultz was a passenger in Sponaugle's car.
Both Whitehead and Schultz gave similar accounts of the shooting, with Sponaugle and Wright arguing and then Sponaugle walking away from Whitehead and Wright before turning and shooting Whitehead.
Whitehead told the jury that Sponaugle said: "it's all your fault" (blaming him for the gun transaction not being completed) before he shot him.
Wright was originally a co-defendant in the trial but yesterday he agreed to a plea deal that satisfied all of the criminal charges against him from several arrests. He faces up to 10-years in prison but was released under supervision, giving him a chance to be present for the birth of his first child.
The case is the final trial for both Friedman and County Court Judge Charles Zambito, who are both retiring.
"Obviously this is a good way to end, with a serious case going well, and I'm certainly pleased with the result," Friedman said. "It's a good note to end on."
In his testimony, Whitehead told the jury that the bullet Sponagule fired into him from a .32 caliber handgun is still lodged in his spine and will be there for the rest of his life.
He said he was neither happy nor sad to learn of Sponagule's conviction.
"I don't have no hate for him, I guess," Whitehead said. "I mean, I don't like him, but I guess there's no hate. I don't know why he did it or what brought him to do it, but just, I don't know, just neutral. I guess. I got no hate for him."
Even so, Whitehead suggested there is no appropriate sentence for Sponaugle given the fact Whitehead will live with pain for the rest of his life.
"It's hard to say how long he should get. I mean, he tried to take my life so it's, I don't even know, like, I got to deal with it for the rest of my life," Whitehead said. "So I'll always be in pain and he'll be behind bars but he won't know what pain feels like so and no time I guess is enough for that type of crime. I guess he shouldn't be allowed back out. My point of view is he shot somebody. I mean, it wasn't his family. It was. I don't know. It's hard to hard to be the judge, I guess."