Parents question Savannah gang indictment as suspect enters plea - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Parents question Savannah gang indictment as suspect enters plea

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"Let it go, man. Leave him alone."

That's what Rev. Leonard Small says 19-year-old Tiyates Franklin's friends told him the weekend of Labor Day 2012, when Frankin was shot to death in an argument on River Street.

Small is acting as spokesman for the nine men indicted in September 2012 on gang charges in connection with the shooting.

Seven of them are charged with Franklin's murder. Three have pleaded to reduced gang charges.

Franklin's friends are charged with taunting, threatening and surrounding Lanard Mikell, who police believe shot Franklin, leading Mikell to shoot in fear after the men got in a confrontation.

In September 2012, a grand jury declined to indict Mikell for murder. That same day, Franklin's friends were indicted on gang charges.

Darius Bryant, Kavon Smalls and Aljando Williams all have pleaded guilty to reduced charges.

Small claims the three entered pleas because they were eager to be released after spending months in jail.

Bryant entered his plea Wednesday. In tears, his mother walked into a news conference held by three of the suspects' families at Small's Shell Road church Wednesday morning. 

"She never intended for her son to confess to something he did not do," Small said.

The District Attorney's Office declined comment on the case Tuesday, citing judicial rules that prevent prosecutors from speaking publicly on pending cases.

Small questions why the man police believe shot Mikell is walking free, while the friends who tried to treat his wounds and took him to the hospital are charged with murder.

Small contends the gang indictment, announced in a news conference at the Chatham County Courthouse the day it was handed down, was a misguided effort to get tough on crime.

"(Prosecutors) wanted to show how tough they were, how they were going to stamp out this gang thing," he said. "And they overreached."

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