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A man who pleaded guilty to fatally shooting a year-old woman outside a St. Paul nightclub last year was sentenced Tuesday. James Jones Fields, 36, of St. Paul will serve seven years in prison and about four years on supervised release. He was given credit for days of time served. It was not the outcome the family, who requested the harshest sentence possible, had hoped for, nor what Ramsey County District Judge Paul Yang said he wanted. However, Yang said the case was lacking strong evidence as no one in the crowd outside the Lamplighter Lounge on June 13, , had come forward to testify that Fields was indeed the shooter who killed Nia Black when he fired at her car.
But I hope that you will never forget Nia Black. She was a d cosmetologist who graduated from the Aveda Institute and had her own business as a professional makeup artist. She had dreamed of opening her own beauty school. He has terrorized the community with his gang activity.
In , the Pioneer Press wrote an article about him being honored by the St. Paul Police Department for pulling an injured man from a crashed car. Fields talked about his difficult upbringing and being a founding member of St. He said then he had left the gang after a shooting that killed an innocent girl. He participated in the Youth in Transition program and the Stop Armed Gang Activity program, which encouraged other young men to leave the gang lifestyle. The shooting also happened outside the Lamplighter.
Fields was sentenced to concurrent prison terms of 36 and 39 months. In , he was out of prison, and on June 13 visited the Lamplighter, St. She ended up changing her plans and met up with three friends who decided to go to the Lamplighter. The bar was at capacity when they arrived, and not accepting any more patrons. A large group of people were congregated in the parking lot. While in the parking lot, Black got into a verbal, then physical, altercation with another woman. The fight turned into a widespread brawl and people who were inside the bar spilled out into the parking lot.
Black and her friends tried to leave, getting back into the Ford Escape they arrived in. As they drove off, shots were fired. One broke the window of the Escape and hit Black in the head, killing her. The prosecution relied on multiple videos captured during the incident. Lamplighter had 16 surveillance cameras inside and outside of its business, plus multiple phone videos were taken by bystanders.
Police stitched the videos together, showing that Fields was inside the club at the time Black was fighting with the woman. He left the club, ran to his car to retrieve his gun, and started shooting at the Escape as it drove off. He did not know Black, nor did he know what the fight was about. Fields must live with the horrible thing that he did.
He was originally charged with five counts of second-degree murder, one count of third-degree murder, three counts of second-degree assault, one count of possessing a firearm illegally and one count of first-degree manslaughter. He pleaded guilty July 2 to first-degree manslaughter. According to the plea agreement, the other charges were dropped. Claffey, said her client has taken responsibility for his actions and that he never intended to kill anyone.
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