More than two years after Julian DeSantis accidentally shot and killed his 18-year-old friend in Palm Beach Gardens, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Judge Glenn Kelley sentenced DeSantis in the death of Feliciano S. Sabates Tuesday afternoon in front of a packed courtroom in downtown West Palm Beach. In August, a jury found DeSantis guilty of manslaughter, improper exhibition of a dangerous weapon and possession of a firearm by a minor.
“A manslaughter case is the most difficult case to pronounce sentencing. … What you have is a tragic situation where a person does not intend something, but their consequences of their action is that someone dies.” Kelley said. “I have the power to sentence, but I don’t have the power to heal.”
Sabates’ stepfather, attorney Leo Plasencia, told the court his family was wrecked by the death. His wife has trouble functioning on a day-to-day basis, Sabates’ younger brother “feels alone in the world,” and Sabates’ grandparents look at a photo of the 18-year-old before they go to bed each night thinking “he would have been more than just a picture” if the shooting didn’t happen. Plasencia said he considers himself strong, but Sabates’ death has caused him “a tremendous amount of pain.”
“Essentially two lives are destroyed as a result as this. And two families are being destroyed,” Plasencia said about the sentencing. “But having said that, I think Julian DeSantis needs to understand and needs to be sent a message of the gravity of what he did.”
On Aug. 2, 2014, Palm Beach Gardens police were called to apartments on the 4000 block of Pinella Circle, near Interstate 95 and PGA Boulevard, where 18-year-old Sabates was shot.
Initially, DeSantis told Palm Beach Gardens police a black man in red shirt and black shorts shot his friend, according to a police report. Another friend in DeSantis’ apartment told police DeSantis had a 9mm handgun and had pointed it at him first. After he told him to stop, DeSantis pointed it at Sabates, and that’s when the gun went off.
DeSantis, who was 17 years old at the time, eventually confessed and told police he had been smoking marijuana and drinking before he shot Sabates.
DeSantis’ father, Doug, told the judge that neither family will be the same, and that he takes partial ownership in the 18-year-old’s death. He said he agreed his son needed to face the consequences of his actions, but that he was also a teen at the time and should have a sentence where he can come out a productive citizen in the end.
“Neither family will be the same. Ever,” he said. “Someone has to pay for the accident. This is not a baseball through a window or backing into a mailbox. This accident took a human life. The life of a special young child with a loving heart and warm soul.”
Throughout the testimony, DeSantis bowed his head and cried several times. When he spoke to the court, he said he took full responsibility for his actions and said he grapples with the pain of being the one who took away the life of one of his closest friends.
“Although I can blame others for where I am today, I have only really to look at myself,” he said. “But really, your honor, it’s really all on me.”