Screengrab: News 5 Cleveland
Screengrab: News 5 Cleveland

WATCH: Simone Biles's brother has murder charges dismissed, leading to chaotic courtroom scene

By The Washington Post Time of article published Jun 16, 2021

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Des Bieler

An Ohio judge on Tuesday dismissed murder and other charges that were filed against Tevin Biles-Thomas, the brother of US Olympic gymnast Simone Biles.

The judge's announcement in a Cuyahoga County courtroom elicited an enraged reaction from a woman who charged toward Biles-Thomas before being restrained by sheriff's deputies.

The woman was identified in multiple reports as the mother of one of the men whose death at a 2018 New Year's Eve party in Cleveland formed the basis of the case.

Biles-Thomas, 26, was accused of fatally shooting 19-year-old DelVaunte Johnson and 21-year-old Toshaun Banks in an incident in which 23-year-old DeVaughn Gibson, reportedly the cousin of Biles-Thomas, was also shot to death.

Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge Joan Synenberg upheld a motion to dismiss from Biles-Thomas's defense team after she found that the evidence presented by prosecutors was "insufficient to sustain a conviction."

Synenberg cited a witness for the prosecution who testified that she didn't see the shooter's face and was only 75% certain that clothing visible on surveillance being worn by Biles-Thomas matched her recollection of what the shooter was wearing.

"My heart goes out to the families of the victims," said Synenberg as she closed the case.

At that point, a women stood up and ran at Biles-Thomas while shouting about her distress. Later, she could be heard outside the courtroom sobbing that Biles-Thomas "killed my baby."

A county spokesman said (via cleveland.com) that the woman, identified as Brandie Johnson, was released with no charges.

Biles-Thomas, a soldier in the US Army, was arrested in August 2019 and charged with murder, voluntary manslaughter, felonious assault and perjury. He pleaded not guilty in September, shortly after Biles, his gold medal-winning sister, said on social media that she was "still having a hard time processing" the situation.

When the case went to trial last month after being moved as part of a response to the coronavirus pandemic, prosecutors said that Biles-Thomas opened fire on Johnson and Banks when Gibson was accosted at the party.

Johnson was said to have returned fire in self-defense, killing Gibson. A defense attorney for Biles-Thomas, Joseph Patituce, said that there was no evidence showing his client fired any shots, and prosecutors were not able to present the gun used to kill Johnson and Banks.

Later in May, Synenberg declared a mistrial after jurors told her they mistakenly received legal briefs from the prosecuting and defense teams. In a new trial that subsequently commenced earlier this month, Synenberg did not allow some evidence, leaving the state's case thinner.

"He's now run the gantlet twice," Patituce said Wednesday (via WEWS) of Biles-Thomas. "You've gone through two full trials where no one [who] has any credibility, has identified him as the shooter."

The defense attorney described Brandie Johnson's actions as "shocking."

"It was a surprise. But they lost children," he said. "It wasn't Tevin, but they lost children. And it's a horrible tragedy all around."

Biles-Thomas and Biles were separated during childhood when their mother, who struggled with drug and alcohol dependency, lost custody of her eight children. Biles and several siblings moved to Houston under the care of her paternal grandfather while Biles-Thomas was adopted by another relative in Cleveland.

Of the case, Biles said in a note in 2019, "My heart aches for everyone involved, especially for the victims and their families. There is nothing I can say that will heal anyone's pain, but I do want to express my sincere condolences to everyone affected by this terrible tragedy."

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