Couple convicted of accessory after the fact in 14-year-old’s death

Published 6:00 pm Monday, September 19, 2011

A husband and wife charged as after-the-fact accessories to first-degree murder in the 2009 shooting death of 14-year-old Alexus Rankins were given jail and prison sentences Monday.

Rodney Bernard Newton, 48, and Nina Lambert Newton, 44, were tried in May, along with their two sons, Sean and Brandon Newton. The couple were convicted of accessory after the fact; Nina Newton also was convicted of obstructing justice.

Davis sentenced Nina Newton to 10 years in prison for obstruction and five for accessory after the fact. The terms will run at the same time.

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Rodney Newton was sentenced to three years.

Before sentencing, defense attorney Todd Clemons argued that Rodney Newton should be acquitted or granted a new trial. He said there was “no evidence whatsoever” presented during trial to suggest that Newton committed a crime.

He said the jury may have convicted Newton based on a misconception. Even if Newton knew a crime was committed and didn’t report it, that doesn’t make him guilty of accessory after the fact, Clemons said.

Rodney Newton would have had to actively try to assist the perpetrators in escaping arrest and prosecution, he said. Prosecutor Cynthia Killingsworth said Newton conspired with his wife to fabricate a story and lied to police.

Judge Clayton Davis denied the motions, saying that although the evidence wasn’t strong, it showed the couple lied to authorities.

Before Nina Newton’s sentencing, Clemons said the court should consider the defendant has no previous criminal record. She faced up to 40 years in prison on the obstruction charge and up to five on the accessory count.

Clemons said Newton’s “maternal instincts” influenced her to help her sons and that she’s unlikely to commit the crime again, since the circumstances surrounding it are unlikely to recur.

Killingsworth said Newton helped dispose of the gun and lied to police. She said the victim’s family hoped to see the maximum sentence imposed.

Sean Newton was sentenced in July to life in prison for first-degree murder, obstructing justice and inciting to riot. Brandon Newton will be sentenced Friday.