The teenager, charged in the December 2018 death of boyfriend Julius Tate Jr., reached a plea deal with prosecutors in May and is scheduled to be sentenced on Friday, Aug. 2.
UPDATE: Saunders was sentenced on Friday, Aug. 2, to spend three years in juvenile detention.
Masonique Saunders was charged with murder in the December 2018 death of boyfriend Julius Tate Jr., who was shot and killed by a Columbus SWAT officer during a sting, and Saunders remains in a juvenile detention facility awaiting sentencing.
In May, prosecuting and defense attorneys reached a plea agreement, with Saunders admitting to delinquency charges of involuntary manslaughter and aggravated robbery in Juvenile Court. At the time, Prosecutor Ron O’Brien said attorneys for each side recommended she be committed to a state Department of Youth Services prison for three years, with a chance of early release for good behavior after two years.
On Friday, Aug. 2, Judge Woodrow Hudson will rule on Saunders’ fate, and the organizers behind the Coalition to Free Masonique, who initially petitioned prosecutors to drop all of the charges, have scheduled a rally outside of the courthouse to stump for minimum sentencing. The rally is slated to take place outside of 375 S. Front St. beginning at 9 a.m.
“We cannot sit by and let another Black youth see their future incarcerated,” the group wrote in a press release. “The fight is not over.”
Saunders was initially charged with Tate's death under the controversial felony murder rule, which provides that “no person shall proximately cause the death of another person as the result of committing a first or second degree felony,” according to an emailed statement provided to Alive earlier this year by O’Brien’s public information officer, Christy McCreary.
Absent a plea deal, Saunders, 17, could have been tried as an adult and faced life imprisonment, though she was neither armed nor alongside Tate when the undercover officer was allegedly robbed. (Prosecutors said that Saunders used her cellphone to set up the robbery, for which Tate was armed.)
Read more about the case and the controversy behind the felony murder rule in our May cover feature: The Case of Masonique Saunders.