TAMPA — A Tampa teen who helped a friend try to cover up the shooting of a Blake High School graduate last summer was sentenced Thursday to a month in jail followed by three years of probation.
Sabian Taft, 18, pleaded guilty in a Tampa courtroom to tampering with evidence in connection to the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Crysi Coleman. Hillsborough Circuit Judge Mark Kiser withheld adjudication and ordered Taft to be taken into custody.
Prosecutors said Taft and a friend, 16-year-old Yanmarkoz Jimenez, drove Coleman to Tampa General Hospital and dropped her off after Jimenez unintentionally shot Coleman in the head on Aug. 29. The shooting occurred while the three were hanging out in Taft’s bedroom in a house on the 2600 block of Durham Street, in Tampa’s Palmetto Beach neighborhood.
A paramedic working at the emergency room entrance at Tampa General asked the pair what happened to the woman and they said they didn’t know, court documents state. The two males, later determined to be Jimenez and Taft, then left. Coleman died about 15 minutes later.
Jimenez changed his story multiple times but eventually admitted he was waving around Taft’s Glock 19 pistol when it discharged, hitting Coleman.
Taft also withheld information from investigators, prosecutors said, but eventually admitted that he cleaned up blood from his room and covered a bullet hole in his door with a sticker on one side and filled the other side with toothpaste, court records state.
Evidence tampering is a third-degree felony in Florida punishable by up to five years in prison. Prosecutors had negotiated a plea deal that would have had Taft serve only three years of probation. But Taft failed to show up for court Thursday morning, prompting Kiser to issue a warrant for his arrest.
When Taft showed up for Kiser’s afternoon docket, he told the judge he woke up late. Kiser replied that was “an indication that’s not he not taking this seriously” and told Taft’s attorney, Brian Shrader, that he was prepared to sentence Taft to 30 days in the county jail followed by the three years of probation and other terms included in the plea agreement.
Shrader said the shooting traumatized his client, who does not have a prior criminal history. Shrader said he told his client he needed to take advantage of the deal “as an opportunity to not screw up your life forever at this young age.” Shrader said he studied previous cases with the same charge and similar criminal histories, including in Kiser’s courtroom, and they all resulted in probation. He asked Kiser to stick with the original plea deal.
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Tampa attorney Shiobhan Olivero, who is Crysi Coleman’s aunt and has spoken on behalf of the family, previously told the Tampa Bay Times that Crysi and Taft had met in middle school and dated but were friends at the time of the shooting. The family said their daughter met Jimenez through Taft.
At Thursday’s hearing, Olivero told Kiser the family was not in agreement with the original plea deal struck by prosecutors.
“This is someone who claims to love her, who claims to be part of her family and lifelong friends, who dumps her on the steps of the emergency room and tells them he doesn’t know who she is and hides her ID so nobody knows how to contact the family,” Olivero said, her voice wavering. She said Taft has shown “zero remorse.”
Shrader took some time to confer with his client and shortly after returned and Taft took the deal, which also requires him to serve 75 hours of community service, among other terms.
Jimenez, who was prosecuted as an adult, pleaded guilty last month to manslaughter with a weapon and evidence tampering as part of a plea deal with prosecutors and was sentenced to five years in prison.