GRAND RAPIDS, MI – In exchange for testimony that helped send a murderer to prison two years ago, Louie Howard got a deal that turned a potential life sentence into less than one year in the county jail.
The only requirement was that the 33-year-old stay out of trouble for the next five years.
However, Howard failed to live up to that seemingly modest requirement and now faces the next 15 to 60 years in prison.
Kentwood Police entered Howard’s home in the 3100 block of 60th St. SE on June 4 and found him flushing 3 ounces of cocaine down the toilet, according to court records. Police also say they found large amounts of cash and drug paraphernalia.
Howard pleaded guilty to delivery and manufacturing cocaine and maintaining a drug house. Police say he cooperated in the investigation.
That was not the first time Howard had cooperated with police.
Howard was at the center of the July 2012 trial of Andrew Ramon Scott, who was convicted of first-degree murder in the May 2004 shooting death of Tahri Braggs on Alexander Street SE.
In multiple hearings, Howard testified that he was sitting next to Scott when he pulled his car up next to the van driven by Braggs and shot the young father of two children.
“I seen (Brigg’s) body jerk back because he’d been shot,” Howard said before a Kent County Circuit Court jury in 2012. “I’m yelling and screaming what the ‘F’ did you do that for.”
The testimony helped build the case in which a jury deliberated about three hoursbefore finding Scott guilty. Scott remains in the Saginaw Correctional Facility where he just last month began serving a life sentence without parole after serving two years on the gun charge, for which he was also convicted.
But early on in the investigation, Howard lied to police and prosecutors, saying that he was nowhere near the scene of the crime. The fact that witnesses refused to cooperate contributed to the fact that the case went unresolved for seven years.
Howard said he kept quiet because Scott has children with Howard's sister.
“Tahari was my homeboy,” Howard said in July of 2012. “I was right in the middle of this.”
Howard was charged with perjury for lying under oath in an investigative subpoena and faced minimum sentencing guidelines of between 12 and 22 years to life if found guilty.
In exchange for his cooperation, the Kent County Prosecutor’s Office agreed to a sentence of one year in jail.
The recent drug charges violated Howard’s parole, which means Howard was subject to the full term under which he was convicted of perjury, in this case 15 to 60 years - dwarfing the 10 to 20-year sentence he received on the drug charges as a repeat offender.
“You had an incredible gift,” Kent County Circuit Court Judge Donald Johnston told Howard in court Tuesday, Sept. 16. “Quite frankly, the gift of a lifetime and you blew it.”
Howard’s attorney, Jonathan Schildgen, reminded the judge that his client had no violent felonies on his criminal record and had never been to prison and asked the judge to give the defendant -- whom the attorney described as kind and gentle -- the hope that comes with a single-digit sentence.
Howard told the judge he accepted that he would be going to prison and even said that his punishment was not too harsh, all things considered. He said he accepted responsibility for his actions.
“I can’t so much blame my environment because I am a man,” Howard said.