The jury came back with the verdict less than two hours, including a break for pizza, after the closing arguments in the trial of Rakayo Vinson, 25, who was charged in the deaths of 24-year-old Cedric Gaston; 26-year-old Atkeem Stevenson; and 22-year-old Kevin Donaldson, all of Kenosha.
Authorities said Vinson and Donaldson exchanged punches earlier in the evening at the Somers House Tavern in the village of Somers. Surveillance video later shows Vinson walking to the patio of the bar and opening fire before fleeing. He exchanged gunfire outside tavern with Donaldson, who later died at a hospital.
Vinson was convicted of three counts of first-degree intentional homicide and three counts of attempted first-degree intentional homicide, the Kenosha News reported. Each count carries a mandatory life prison sentence.
“It’s three (life sentences) and three 60-year sentences,” Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley said after the verdict was announced. “From my perspective, the jury made the right decision based on the facts we have.”
Members of the victims’ families sat teary-eyed in court as the verdicts were read. Outside the courtroom after the trial, they thanked Graveley and his team for successfully prosecuting the case.
Graveley said he will request that Vinson never be released from prison. A sentencing hearing is set for March 28.
Graveley said during his closing argument Tuesday that Vinson was out for revenge. He said Vinson delivered the first punch.
“The pattern of his decisions throughout this night are to be as aggressive as possible, to have every slight be a fight or combat and every combat to be escalated by the defendant,” Graveley told the jury.
Vinson’s attorney, Donald Bielski, said in his 30-minute closing that Vinson was not the aggressor and that he fired his weapon in self-defense.
“On the evening of April 17 and 18, he did not set to or commit first-degree intentional homicide,” Bielski told the jury. “But for their own actions, Cedric Gaston, Atkeem Stevenson, and Kevin Donaldson would be alive today.”
Justin Haymond, Jordan Momani, and Kevin Serratos were wounded but survived. Vinson was arrested in Mount Pleasant after he stole a car from friends, who turned him in after he returned the vehicle.
Vinson repeatedly argued with Judge Bruce Schroeder during the trial about Bielski and demanded a new attorney. Vinson was removed from the courtroom on Thursday for disruptive outbursts. He later changed his mind and opted to be represented by Bielski.