The former Arizona State University football player convicted of shooting and killing another former player was sentenced Friday to 20 years in prison.
Loren Wade, 23, originally of Los Angeles, spoke for the first time before the court and apologized to the family of Brandon Falkner, also a former ASU football player, who he killed in the parking lot of a Scottsdale nightclub on March 25, 2005.
A jury found Wade guilty of second-degree murder on June 7, but couldn’t agree on the question of premeditation.
Sobbing, Wade spoke at length. “I promise with every ounce of my breath that every moment of my life will be in his honor,” Wade told Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Arthur Anderson. “I promise you that your mercy will not be in vain.”
He promised to devote his life to discouraging other young men from unwisely using firearms.
Falkner’s brother, Jelani, and a number of Wade’s family and friends also spoke during the sentencing hearing, including Wade’s high school football and basketball coaches, his pastor, an ASU football teammate and his mother.
Wade’s attorney, Ulises Ferragut, advocated vigorously on his client’s behalf. He characterized every one of his meetings with Wade as painful, because each was filled with discussions of the Falkner family and Wade’s regrets.
“It is genuine when he says it hurts,” Ferragut said. He called Wade one of his most sincerely remorseful clients. “This is a man that wants to help other young men not to make the same mistakes,” he said.
Jelani Falkner, who has acted as his family’s spokesman throughout the trial, reminded the court how painful the loss of his brother has been. He said that he had anger in his heart, and he asked the judge to instate the maximum sentence of 22 years.
Anderson detailed his decisionmaking process before announcing the sentence.
“Perhaps we’ve come full circle here,” he said, referring to the course of Wade’s life.
The judge said he understood Wade was a good kid, who fought his way out of a tough childhood in east Los Angeles and into better prospects, but who had gone astray during his college years at ASU. He said he saw Wade’s remorse as a possible return to the good person that family and friends described him to be. But Anderson said the middle part of the cycle was what concerned him.
Anderson described carrying a firearm as “an unnecessary, stupid thing to do,” and he noted that Wade had accidentally fired the gun earlier in the evening, almost shooting a friend in the foot.
“You took it with you again, nonetheless,” Anderson said. The judge also pointed out that Wade had made the choice to punch Falkner in the head with the gun, instead of with his hand.
“You didn’t need to take the gun out,” Anderson said. “That’s a different Loren Wade than I’ve heard about today.”
Anderson also took into account the jury’s earlier finding that three aggravating circumstances existed: use of a deadly weapon in the commission of the crime, a history of violence toward others and emotional trauma caused to the victim’s family.
Under the state’s mandatory sentencing guidelines, Wade’s prison term had to fall between 10 and 22 years.