Brooklyn man begins reduced sentence for fatally hitting neighbor
After tearfully declaring “I am not a beast” to the court, a remorseful Brooklyn man has begun serving a reduced prison sentence for beating a cancer-stricken elderly man to death.
Vaughn Keith, 36, punched 69-year-old Willie Davis during a tragic confrontation outside Keith’s brownstone in Bedford-Stuyvesant on Jan. 30, 2014.
Davis, who was confused and disoriented due to cancer and diabetes, tried to open the front door of Keith’s home, thinking it was his own, sparking the deadly chance encounter. Keith punched Davis twice, causing the sick man to fall down the steps and hit his head on the concrete.
Cancer-stricken Davis (pictured) was punched after trying to open the front door of Keith’s Bedford-Stuyvesant brownstone.
(Jesse Ward/for New York Daily News)
A jury convicted Keith of second-degree manslaughter and second-degree assault in July 2015. Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice William Harrington sentenced Keith to three to 10 years in prison.
But in October, the Appellate Division Second Department reduced that sentence to two to six years, citing “a number of mitigating factors.” The decision was 3-1.
On Friday, Keith surrendered in court, breaking down in tears.
“I am not a beast. I am not a criminal. This is not my character,” the city sanitation worker said. “I realize now I looked at the situation wrong. I reacted wrong.”
Keith had argued at trial that he acted in self-defense, thinking Davis was trying to break into his home.
During the emotional proceeding, Harrington stood by his original sentence.
“You killed a man who posed no threat to you, and rather than call the police you fled like a coward. That’s what happened,” Harrington said.
Keith’s brownstone on 635 Halsey St. home (right), in Brooklyn.
(Google Maps Street View)
Davis, who lived on the same Halsey St. block as Keith, died five months after the attack of the blunt-force trauma to his head.
“I have always been sorry to him, his family. I understand how they feel I am sorry to any and everyone,” said Keith, who empathized with Davis’ family because he lost his grandfather to cancer.
Appeals Judge Randall Eng agreed with Harrington’s sentence in a dissent.
“The defendant bears criminal responsibility for conduct that resulted in the death of an elderly man in ill health who was powerless to ward off his blows,” Eng wrote.
- daily news exclusives
- Join the Conversation: