Durrell M. Pretty was visibly shaking during his plea hearing Monday in Fairfax County Circuit Court.
Less than 10 feet behind him, Brendan Hart Tash’s mother wept and his father’s eyes welled as they watched the 19-year-old man who shot and killed their son outside a party in Springfield on March 6.
Pretty pleaded guilty Monday, Aug. 29 before Judge Jane Marum Roush to involuntary manslaughter and feloniously shooting another in commission of a felony.
“There was nothing involuntary about it, basically this guy got away with murder. That’s the way I feel,” said Steve Tash, Brendan’s father.
Originally charged with the murder of Brendan Tash, 20, Pretty now faces a maximum of 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to the reduced charges.
“We urged [Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney] Mr. Murphy not to accept the plea, and communicated to him that we collectively wanted a trial,” according to Steve Tash. “He said it was his decision to make.”
But he and his family are trying to look at the positive side, said Steve Tash after the court hearing. “It does give us closure faster,” he said. “The downside is I don’t get to hear all the witnesses.”
He also “knew there were risks of 12 citizens coming up with an acquittal,” he said.
Pretty, of the 5900 block of Queenston St. in Springfield, is scheduled to be sentenced in October.
<b>BRENDAN HART TASH</b> was shot on the front lawn while attending the 21st birthday party of his friend, Matthew Reed, of Cardinal Brook Court in Springfield.
Pretty and seven of his friends — five boys and two girls — showed up uninvited to the party, according to testimony from Detective Steve Shillingford. “One of the individuals was being loud,” he said. “They were told that they had to leave.”
During Pretty’s preliminary hearing in April in General District Court, a 17-year-old witness who was with Pretty that night admitted he was arguing loudly with someone on his cell phone when people at Reed’s party told him to shut up.
“Words started getting tossed back and forth,” the 17-year-old testified.
Pretty, the 17-year-old and some of their friends then chased two people into the house. “Next thing you know, practically the whole party came out of the house chasing us,” the 17-year-old said. “I was scared.”
Shillingford received “varying accounts” from witnesses that night, but confirmed that 15 to 30 people came out to confront Pretty and his friends near their cars on the street. “At least two had baseball bats, some had bottles,” Shillingford said, during Monday’s plea hearing.
“At some point, a gun was handed to Mr. Pretty and he fired into the air,” Shillingford said. All five rounds from the gun were fired, he said.
Pretty fired shots in the air with the intention of moving the group back away from the confrontation, said Robert Whitestone, Pretty’s defense attorney, during a motion hearing in June.
“It was an unlucky shot?” Whitestone asked Shillingford, during Monday’s hearing.
“For several people involved,” the detective answered.
<b>BRENDAN TASH</b> was 50 to 65 feet away and running toward the house when the bullet caught him in the back of the neck, said Shillingford.
Friends carried Tash into the house after he was shot, said Reed, the host of the party who also testified in April.
Reed administered CPR that night. “He was not breathing, his skin was pale, he looked like he had been badly beaten,” Reed said. “Police asked us to go upstairs. … That’s the last time I saw Brendan.”
Outside the courtroom, Steve Tash remembered his son as “an instantaneous friend maker — he was loved by everyone that he knew,” he said.
Tash said approximately 2,000 people attended his son’s funeral in March.
Brendan “knew more people, was loved by more people, and affected more people’s lives in a positive way than any other person I know — young or old,” according to Tash.
He called his son honorable, brave and courageous, and a great athlete, “who could play piano arpeggios like you could not believe.”
All those who knew him, his father said, appreciated him for his “pure heart.”
“Brendan did some things for me to help me in my life when he was the only person on the earth ready and willing and able to help,” Steve Tash said. “That showed me what a wonderful character he had.”