NORRISTOWN — A Philadelphia man who previously was acquitted of third-degree murder by a jury in connection with the 2018 gunshot slaying of a Norristown man has admitted that he helped set up the robbery that went awry and led to the fatal shooting.
Andre Marcus Johnson, 21, of the 300 block of Fountain Street, showed no emotion as he was sentenced in Montgomery County Court on Friday to 13½ to 27 years in a state correctional facility after he pleaded guilty to felony charges of robbery and criminal use of a communication facility in connection with the June 16, 2018, robbery that ended with a conspirator fatally shooting 19-year-old Desmond Zaire Johnson in Carson Alley in Norristown.
The sentence, which was the maximum punishment for the charges, was imposed by Judge William R. Carpenter as part of a plea agreement.
When Carpenter asked Andre Johnson if he had anything to say before the sentence was imposed, Johnson uttered, “I have nothing to say.”
Andre Johnson and the victim were not related.
Another man, Dontae Marquis “Dewey” Parker, 21, of the 300 block of East Penn Street, Norristown, previously admitted he fired the gunshot that fatally wounded Desmond Johnson during the robbery that went wrong and was sentenced in February 2020 to 20 to 40 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to a charge of third-degree murder in connection with the slaying.
Specifically, Andre Johnson admitted that on the night of the homicide, he communicated via text messages with Desmond Johnson about buying marijuana from him and used Parker’s cellphone to arrange the drug sale. Andre Johnson admitted that he arranged the drug sale because he and Parker planned to rob Desmond Johnson.
Andre Johnson admitted he walked Desmond Johnson into Carson Alley, between Penn and Airy streets, where Parker was waiting to rob the victim. A short time after Andre Johnson walked Desmond Johnson into the alley, Parker shot the victim while committing his part of the robbery, prosecutors alleged.
“We are at the point where the defendant is taking responsibility for his role in this robbery that turned into a homicide. He’s getting the statutory maximum for his role in this robbery,” said Assistant District Attorney Samantha Cauffman, explaining the significance of the sentence imposed against Andre Johnson.
“He set the victim up through text messages under the guise that this was going to be a drug deal and he delivered the victim to the co-defendant who ended up shooting the victim,” Cauffman added.
Andre Johnson, flanked by his lawyer Brendan M. Campbell, appeared at the hearing via a video conferencing link from the county jail in Lower Providence. Carpenter and Cauffman appeared in the courtroom at the courthouse during the hearing.
In February 2019, a jury, with a partial verdict, acquitted Andre Johnson of charges of third-degree murder and possession of a weapon in connection with the incident. However, the jury was deadlocked and unable to reach a verdict on charges of second-degree murder as well as charges of robbery and criminal use of a communication facility.
That meant prosecutors could have retried Andre Johnson on any of the charges of which the jury was deadlocked.
At Andre Johnson’s trial, former prosecutors James Price and Samantha Thompson alleged the crime was about “opportunity and greed” and “consistent with a robbery gone wrong.” Prosecutors alleged Andre Johnson lured the victim into Carson Alley under the guise of a drug deal with the intent to rob the victim, who walked into a trap. At that trial, prosecutors implied Andre Johnson was the shooter.
But Campbell, while conceding Andre Johnson did want to buy marijuana from Desmond Johnson that night, argued prosecutors lacked sufficient evidence to link Andre Johnson to the murder. Campbell argued there was no direct evidence such as eyewitnesses to the fatal shooting and no DNA evidence nor a gun linking his client to the murder.
The murder weapon was never recovered.
Price and Thompson argued circumstantial evidence linked Andre Johnson to the murder. That evidence, prosecutors alleged, included video surveillance from various locations in the area that showed Andre Johnson and the victim walking toward the alley and information contained on the victim’s cellphone.
During Andre Johnson’s trial, Parker refused to testify when called as a witness by prosecutors and he subsequently was convicted by the judge of a contempt of court charge.
It wasn’t until February 2020 that Parker, who was 18 at the time of the fatal shooting, admitted that he was the gunman.
At that time, Parker said he didn’t intend to kill Desmond Johnson when he shot him in the arm. An autopsy determined a single bullet entered Desmond Johnson’s left arm and exited his right chest, injuring his aorta, ribs and lungs.
At the time of the killing, Andre Johnson was staying at Parker’s home, located just yards from the Carson Alley shooting scene.
Parker initially was not charged in connection with the murder. However, in the intervening months, Parker was charged and eventually admitted that he was the shooter.
The investigation began at 11:52 p.m. June 16 when Norristown police responded to reports of gunshots on Carson Alley, in the area behind the 300 block of East Penn Street, according to a criminal complaint. About 30 minutes later, at 12:22 a.m. June 17 police responded to the 300 block of Carson Alley for a report of the discovery of a body.
Officers found the victim lying on his right side, dead from a gunshot wound, according to the criminal complaint filed by county Detective James Reape and Norristown Detective Charles Leeds.
Investigators said they found three plastic bags of suspected marijuana in the victim’s pants pocket.
Detectives recovered a .40-caliber Smith & Wesson fired bullet casing in Carson Alley about 160-feet from the victim’s final resting place.
Investigators developed Andre Johnson as a suspect in the case after retrieving text message communications from the victim’s phone.