BROOKSVILLE — Kenardo Frazer's family watched from the front row of Courtroom D on Thursday as No. 99 appeared on a flat-screen television mounted on the back wall.
In the photo, Jerome Brown stands tall on the football field, an image captured during the legendary Philadelphia Eagles defensive lineman's All-Pro career.
A few feet away, the son of one of Hernando County's most famous athletes stood behind a lectern. Dunell Brown wore jailhouse orange, his hands cuffed in front of him. Even as the 27-year-old slouched, he stood taller than all three bailiffs. Big, like his father.
Brown's lawyer, tearful mother, sister and the mother of one of his three children all pleaded with Circuit Judge Daniel Merritt Sr. as he considered a sentence for Brown, who recently pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for his role in the 2011 killing of Frazer, 30. Jerome Brown died in a car crash when his son was a young boy, they said, so Dunell didn't have a father figure.
Attorney Ed Abel asked Merritt to consider giving his client another chance to do his father's legacy proud.
"Look at the asset our society would have by having Dunell go to schools, to religious groups, to community centers, and tell students, 'Look at me; look how easy it is to get in trouble,' " Abel said.
"We all make choices," Merritt said. "Sometimes good choices, sometimes bad choices, but we have to own them. When you make bad choices, you're accountable, and you have to pay the consequences."
With that, the judge sentenced Brown to 25 years in prison, five years shy of the maximum penalty.
Brown slumped over, resting his elbows on the lectern and staring into its surface. His loved ones burst into tears.
A few moments later, Merritt sentenced Charles Bottom to 12 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to manslaughter. Bottom, 32, and Brown both had been charged with first-degree murder, but struck deals with the State Attorney's Office based on their cooperation in the case.
According to authorities' account, Brown and Frazer had argued hours before Frazer was killed in March 2011. Earlier, Frazer had had an altercation and threatened a woman at the house on Anderson Road where he lived and where Brown sometimes stayed.
Abel told Merritt on Thursday that Frazer had provoked the men by flashing a knife. Brown called his cousin, Julius Holder, 26, and told him to "bring the fire," meaning a gun.
Holder, Brown and Bottom would ultimately track down Frazer and chase him to a front yard on Howell Avenue, north of downtown Brooksville. There, authorities say, Holder pulled the trigger of a 9mm pistol, shooting and killing Frazer. Holder's sentencing is set for next month.
Jerome Brown was a star football player at Hernando High School, where he was named to Parade magazine's All-America team after his senior season. He later won a national championship in 1983 at the University of Miami and was named a first-team All-American in 1986. The next year, the Eagles selected him in the first round of the National Football League draft.
Jerome was killed in a 1992 when he lost control of his Corvette and crashed into a utility pole and palm tree near downtown Brooksville.
Frazer's father, stepmother, two sisters and brother flew down from Brooklyn, N.Y., for the sentencing. They wore white T-shirts emblazoned with a photo of Frazer, smiling and dressed in a suit. They made the shirts for his memorial service but decided to wear them for the sentencing.
To them, Dunell Brown is their loved one's killer. As the family members stood before Merritt, Brown's mother and sister asked for forgiveness.
Abel asked Brown if wanted to say something. He shook his head and looked at the floor.
Frazer's sister, Jolene Fraser, got up to speak.
"All we ask," she said, "is that justice is served for the death of my brother."
Frazer, who changed how he spelled his last name, had a criminal record himself. But he also had a wife and young daughter back in Brooklyn and was planning to come home to them, his family said Friday.
After the sentencing, Frazer's family rushed from the courtroom to catch a flight. They were happy with the sentence, they said. And they will back next month in hopes of seeing justice done once more.
Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or [email protected]