A 20-year-old man pleaded guilty Tuesday to reduced charges in a 2015 slaying, accepting 23 years behind bars instead of the possible life sentence he faced at trial.
Prosecutors say Abram Young shot Charles Holsey through the back seat of his car after a scuffle broke out during a drug deal in a parking lot behind the Kangaroo gas station at 310 Sylvan St. on March 2, 2015.
Young, then a minor, wasn't alone. His friend, Briston Smith, planned the robbery and ordered Young to fire the shots that killed Holsey, a 19-year-old Berry College student, prosecutors say. In June, a jury found Smith, 20, guilty of first-degree murder, felony murder and attempted especially aggravated robbery. He was sentenced to 51 years in prison.
On Tuesday, Young was scheduled to stand trial in Hamilton County Criminal Court on the same murder and attempted robbery charges. Instead, he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.
Tanja Holsey, the victim's mother and a doctor in Chattanooga, said she forgave Young, but she hopes he uses his time behind bars wisely.
"You will have time to grow and mature over those next two decades," Tanja Holsey said. "Please use your time wisely. Educate yourself. Learn to stand up for what is right. Be strong enough to say no or just walk away. Become a man that you will also be proud of, because I hope and pray that deep down you have remorse and regret for what you have done."
Young's defense attorney, Zak Newman, declined to comment Tuesday but said he was prepared to go to trial. There's one more pending case in connection with the slaying: Robert Thompson, who prosecutors framed as the getaway driver during Smith's trial.
Prosecutors said Smith orchestrated the robbery because he didn't have enough money to purchase drugs that night. He saw an easy target in Holsey, who believed he was texting a friend from Berry College who went by the same nickname, according to trial testimony. But defense attorneys and other eyewitnesses said there was no plan to rob Holsey and that Young was more of a solo actor.
On March 2, 2015, Smith asked Thompson and his girlfriend, who'd been driving around doing errands, to pick him and Young up. They were going to buy marijuana from a guy whom Smith had texted by accident, according to trial testimony. But Thompson's girlfriend testified that she never heard a price discussed and nobody talked about a robbery.
Smith was never armed but Young had a bag that prosecutors say he often carried a gun in. Thompson's next court date is Feb. 22 before Criminal Court Judge Barry Steelman.
This story was updated Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018, at 9:59 p.m.