WILKES-BARRE – Prosecutors said Friday they’ve brought enough evidence against Shauntae Thomas to charge him with first-degree murder.
And that’s all they need to do to charge him with an open count of homicide.
Thomas’ attorneys say just the opposite – there is not enough evidence to charge their client with first- or third-degree murder. Therefore, they said, Thomas, 36, should face manslaughter charges in the April shooting death of Derrick Cottle, 40.
Prosecutors contend Thomas shot and killed Cottle on Reno Lane in Wilkes-Barre after a fight between their sons.
Luzerne County Senior Judge Joseph Augello told attorneys he would accept additional court papers outlining their positions by the end of next week before making a decision.
Friends and family of both Cottle and Thomas were in court Friday, with some of Thomas’ supporters wearing “Free Tae” shirts.
An attorney who represents Thomas, Pete Moses, argued evidence presented at Thomas’ preliminary hearing doesn’t support the greater charges. Thomas did not act intentionally, Moses said, indicating that Thomas acted in the “heat of passion.”
First Assistant District Attorney Samuel Sanguedolce said evidence shows that Thomas followed Cottle after the confrontation between their sons, and fired at him, hitting him in the head. “It was a deliberate act of pointing a gun at someone,” Sanguedolce said, adding it’s up to a jury to decide if “heat of passion” actually occurred.
Thomas’ attorneys say that he was “overcome with the intense emotion” after seeing his son beaten and lying in a pool of blood.
Because of threats to him and his family, Thomas believed his actions were justified, his attorneys have said.