SOUTH BEND — One of eight defendants charged in the shooting death of a South Bend man received a six-year prison sentence Friday, while another would receive the same sentence under a binding plea agreement also filed Friday.
Family members of 21-year-old victim Phillip Bell were disappointed with the sentence given to Benjamin Harris, who pleaded guilty to reckless homicide. Prosecutors had sought a murder conviction, but St. Joseph Superior Judge Jane Woodward Miller declared a mistrial in October when a jury was unable to reach a verdict after 14 hours of deliberations.
Prosecutors say Bell walked up on a group of people in the 600 block of Birdsell Street in October 2009. He and the defendants pulled out guns and started firing.
Two bullets struck Bell, but prosecutors have been unable to trace the shot that killed him to any particular defendant.
After Harris’ mistrial, the other defendants have been pleading guilty to Class C felony reckless homicide in binding plea agreements that call for six-year terms.