While a Palm Beach County jury was deciding whether to convict him of murder, Brandon Small on Thursday instead pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the 2014 shooting death of a Delray Beach man.
Small, 28, of Riviera Beach, was immediately sentenced to 15 years in prison — far less than the life sentence he faced if he was convicted of murder. He also pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm.
The surprise outcome came after the jury had been deliberating for roughly 10 hours over three days. Assistant State Attorney Lauren Godden claimed Small shot 53-year-old Jocelyn Fleurimond during a drug deal in a parking lot of an apartment building on Auburn Circle North in Delray Beach.
Small and his cousin, 26-year-old Harry Dachoute, contacted Fleurimond to buy “lean,” a street term for codeine, an opiate that abusers mix with Sprite, Mountain Dew or other drinks to provide a euphoric high. A struggle ensued and Fleurimond was shot in the chest. He died several days later.
When arrested by Delray Beach police, Small denied any involvement. Dachoute in December pleaded guilty to aggravated assault with a firearm and being a felon in possession of a handgun. He was sentenced to five years in prison.
According to witness testimony, Dachoute went into an apartment in the building to make the purchase and encountered Fleurimond, a stranger, between the time he left the apartment and returned to the parking lot.
The friend who drove the cousins to the building said he handed his gun to Small after they saw Dachoute and Fleurimond struggling. The friend said Small then fired in Fleurimond’s direction.
“He purposely chose to leave the car, to aim, and to shoot,” Assistant State Attorney Lauren Godden said of Small during her closing argument Tuesday.
Police initially arrested Dachoute, who eventually led them to Small. According to arrest reports, Small told police that he wasn’t at the apartment complex the night Fleurimond was killed and hadn’t been to that apartment complex in years.
Defense attorneys Ruth Estes Martinez and Jennifer Klee told jurors that Small wasn’t the shooter and implied that the gunshots may have come from another direction.
“He had nothing to do with the shooting that night,” Estes Martinez told jurors.