Benjamin Brown gets ‘big win;’ is eligible for immediate probation despite conviction
Criminally negligent homicide is a Class E felony, with a sentencing range of 1-2 years with probation immediately available
The case that’s captured the Tennessee Valley’s attention since 2018: a two-year-old girl dead; her babysitter’s boyfriend charged with killing her. On Monday, a jury found Benjamin Brown of Soddy-Daisy guilty, but not for the felony murder charge prosecutors wanted.
Brown was convicted of lesser charges: criminally negligent homicide and reckless endangerment. Those lesser charges could have a major impact when Brown comes up for sentencing.
In Tennessee, juries are allowed to take lesser charges into account when judging one’s guilt or innocence. In Benjamin Brown’s case, it may have saved him from spending one more night in prison.
“He’s eligible for probation,” said prosecuting attorney Cameron Williams, when asked about what kind of sentencing Brown could get after being convicted of those lesser charges. When a reporter asked if that meant Brown’s days in prison could be over, Williams answered “That’s correct.”
Prosecutors originally charged Brown with felony murder and aggravated abuse of a child. What the jury convicted him of is criminally negligent homicide and reckless endangerment. The former is a Class E felony, carrying a one- to two-year sentencing range and probation is immediately available. According to criminal defense attorney Robin Flores, the police may have had a hand in this.
“Sometimes, police over-charge. I did when I was a cop. We call it stacking. Whenever I was getting ready to arrest somebody, I’d start with murder and work down. So, ‘What can I stick on them?’ You know…to make it stick. And you always have that passion when it’s a child.”
The possibility of a light sentence is seen as a big win for Brown and his public defenders. Brown may have been convicted of a homicide charge, but that’s not for felony murder. That carries an automatic life sentence or be sent to Death Row.
“Little old defense attorney against particularly the old public defender. You’re up against the power of the state. That’s an awesome power. And the state better get it right. Anything other than first-degree murder is a win. Because you, as a little, old defense lawyer beat the power of the state.”
Brown remains free on bond pending his sentencing hearing on April 27th by the judge in this case, Barry Steelman.