By Rob Abruzzese
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Neil Firetog sentenced Ragene Powell-Dickerson, 29, and Jimmy Copeland, 26, to life without the possibility of parole on Monday for their role in a murder-for-hire plot that began with sexual text messages and ended in the June 2010 death of Dwyane Burnett.
Burnett’s mother burst into tears as she heard that her son’s killers were being sent to prison for the remainder of their lives. “Justice is done,” Joyce Burnett, the victim’s mother, said through tears immediately after the sentencing. “My baby is gone, but at least they’re not coming back.”
After a jury trial, presided over by Firetog, Powell-Dickerson and Copeland were found guilty of Murder in the First Degree, Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree and Conspiracy in the Second Degree.
Burnett and Powell-Dickerson were friends until Burnett insulted Powell-Dickerson, prosecutors said. To avenge the insult, Powell-Dickerson offered Copeland $1,000 to kill Burnett. Copeland agreed and enlisted the help of his sister, Crystal Copeland, 25, and her friend, Ebony Geddie, 20, to lure Burnett to a location in Brownsville where he would be killed.
To ensure that Burnett would show up, the two women began sending explicit texts and photos with promises of a threesome, according to the Kings County District Attorney’s Office. Geddie even greeted Burnett with a few kisses before Copeland shot him seven times.
It was the women’s testimony that solidified Powell-Dickerson and Copeland’s conviction.
Crystal Copeland and Geddie initially faced murder charges with a possible life sentence. According the DA’s office, in exchange for their testimony, both women plead guilty to Conspiracy in the Second Degree with a sentence of 4 to 12 years in prison.
At Monday’s sentencing, Copeland’s attorney Gary Farrell asked the judge for a sentence of 25 years to life and suggested that the facts and evidence of the trial were circumstantial. Prosecutor Julie B. Rendelman countered that the defendants had a history of violence and showed no remorse for their actions.
Rendelman also noted that the day after the murder, Powell-Dickerson went to the victim’s home to console the family and even drove some of them to the funeral. “What kind of human is capable of that?” she asked rhetorically.
The victim’s sister, Lageneva Burnett, spoke on the family’s behalf. She said that her brother had a bright future and that their family was left devastated after his murder.
“He was the one there for my mother,” Lageneva Burnett explained. “She’s in a wheelchair and needs assistance to go anywhere and Dwayne was the one who helped her. [Ragene Powell-Dickerson] knew that and didn’t care. He just took his life.”
The defendants made no statement before sentencing and offered no reaction when Firetog explained how they forfeited their rights to society and sentenced them to life without parole.
“We’re very happy with the verdict,” Lageneva Burnett said. “They took a life and they deserved to get theirs taken away. This is not something we’re ever going to get over.”