Hammad Memon pleads guilty to murder, sentenced to 30 years for 2010 shooting death of 14-year-old classmate at Discovery Middle

Hammad Memon pleads guilty to murder, sentenced to 30 years for 2010 shooting death of 14-year-old classmate at Discovery Middle

A Madison teen who might have been among those graduating from high school last week instead pleaded guilty to murder today for the February 2010 shooting death of a fellow ninth-grader.

Hammad Memon, 17, now faces a 30-year sentence in an Alabama state prison after a plea agreement was reached with the Madison County District Attorney's Office.

Memon addressed the court before he was sentenced, saying he realized he'd caused a lot of trouble for the state of Alabama and the Brown family.

"As I reflect on my crime I make no excuses," Memon said. "I would like to beg for the family of Todd Brown to forgive me. I grieve with them for their loss. I pray that they will be willing to forgive me.

"And I throw myself on the mercy of the court."

Circuit Judge Karen Hall then sentenced Memon to 30 years in a state penitentiary, with credit for time served, in accordance with the plea deal. He also must pay a $10,000 fine, $1,000 to the crime victims' fund, and an undetermined amount of restitution to the family.

Memon is legally in the U.S., but is not a U.S. citizen. Under current immigration law, Memon is likely to face deportation from the U.S. once his sentence is completed.

Hall denied a formal request for youthful offender status. Memon waived his right to a pre-sentencing investigation clearing the way for the sentencing to be handed down immediately.

"We are reserving no issues for appeal," said Memon attorney Bruce Gardner.

Judge Hall asked Gardner if his client understood the charge. Gardner said yes.

"I plead guilty, your honor," Memon said. "I am in fact guilty, your honor."

Memon was 14 when he shot 14-year-old Todd Brown in the back of the head during a class change at Discovery Middle School in Madison on Feb. 5, 2010. The shooting and Memon's subsequent confession to investigators were both on videotape, prosecutors said.

Memon was set to go on trial for murder June 17, but today's plea before Judge Hall effectively ends the case against him. He was certified to stand trial as an adult in July 2010 and was scheduled to go on trial last June. However Memon and his mother apparently attempted to flee the country last April after receiving new passports from the Pakistani Embassy in Washington, D.C. Embassy officials have said they were unaware Memon faced a murder charge at the time his passport was issued.

Memon, his mother and young sister, were arrested at a Dallas bus station a day after police determined they had fled from their Madison home. Memon was out on bond at the time and in his family's custody.

Both his father, Dr. Iqbal Memon, and his mother, Safia Memon, were charged with hindering prosecution. The cases against them are expected to proceed now that the case against their son has been concluded.

Madison County Assistant District Attorney Tim Gann pointed to Memon's fleeing last year as an unusual part of the case. "His parents are on the hook for that."

Gann did add that there were discussions about a possible plea agreement before Memon fled, but no years of sentencing had been discussed. Gann said the number of years he was seeking as a sentence did increase after the flight.

Memon's parents were not in the courtroom today.

Gann said he's never been involved in a case with so many twists and turns, from working through the juvenile system to have Memon tried as an adult, to the mental health evaluations by both sides, to the flight attempt, to finally negotiating a plea deal while preparing for trial.

"I definitely feel like 30 years is a fair sentence," Gann said. "He was age 14 when it happened. The maximum was life and there's not much difference between a life sentence and a 30-year sentence, both come up for parole in about 15 years."

"I'm very happy it's come to this conclusion. This is an excellent deal for the state."

Memon's attorney and a psychologist who interviewed him after the shooting said the teen had become obsessed with Brown in connection with an alleged gang affiliation.

Memon's attorney Bruce Gardner said Memon wanted to leave the gang, which Madison Police had described more as "would-be gangsters" than an organized group, and he convinced himself Brown would be a threat to him if he left the group.

Gann and Assistant District Attorney Jay Town told the court in February they would raise Memon's reported gang affiliation during his trial. A court filing said they would "assert that defendant believed, by admissions, actions and deeds,that defendant was a member of a gang, to wit: The Crips, at and for some period of time."

He'd been sent to an alternative school in Madison in Fall 2009 after spray-painting "CRIPS"on a wall at Discovery Middle School.

Dr. Phillip Lazarus, the veteran child psychiatrist who examined Memon following his arrest for shooting Brown said the teen had felt threatened upon returning to Discovery and began bringing to school a .22-caliber pistol he'd stolen from a friend's house.

Memon was represented by attorneys Gardner, Robin Clem and Birmingham attorney James Parkman.

Gardner said the plea agreement and sentence was fair to all parties and admitted there was not a viable defense strategy for Memon, given the facts of the case.

"We didn't have self-defense," Gardner said. "We didn't have the mental health defense we thought we could use. It just wasn't there."

Gardner also said he was "very, very concerned" about Memon's future in an Alabama state prison.

"I know what happens down there and it's not pleasant," he said. "I hope the authorities take some measures to protect him. He's Pakistani and in the current climate, that's not a good thing to be. There was at least some talk that he was gang-affiliated and there's a gang culture in the prison system.

"And this is a murder case where Hammad Memon killed a young, black man."

The Madison City Schools also issued a statement following today's hearing.

"The events of February 2010 affected many lives," said Madison City Schools Superintendent Dr. Dee Fowler. "We hope that today's action brings some sense of closure to those whose lives have been irreparably altered."

Madison County District Attorney Rob Broussard also worked on the case with Gann and Town. Gann said the Brown family was ready to plea.

"They're OK with it," he said. "They are happy to have it come to conclusion."

Following the courtroom proceedings, Todd Brown's aunt, Tangela Baptiste  said as Christians, they've already forgiven Memon.

"That is something Jesus Christ expects from us," Baptiste said. "I hope this serves as a lesson for other young people to understand the magnitude of your actions.

"I felt his apology was heartfelt.

John Lavender, Brown's great uncle, said he prays for Memon to find faith in Jesus Christ.

"We do wish that in the years to come, he will find Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior," Lavender said. "We wish him the best as far as his eternal salvation is concerned. I believe in justice, that justice should be served.

"At the same time, we pray for him that he can find God and have a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ."