Judge: '[Gangs] don't own the parks and they don't own the city' - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Judge: '[Gangs] don't own the parks and they don't own the city'

A Smith County judge sentenced Dennis Bendy to life in prison Thursday. (Source: KLTV Staff) A Smith County judge sentenced Dennis Bendy to life in prison Thursday. (Source: KLTV Staff)
Judge Jack Skeen says gangs don't own the parks and they don't own the city. (Source: KLTV Staff) Judge Jack Skeen says gangs don't own the parks and they don't own the city. (Source: KLTV Staff)
Dennis Bendy's father says his son is innocent. (Source: KLTV Staff) Dennis Bendy's father says his son is innocent. (Source: KLTV Staff)
SMITH COUNTY, TX (KLTV) -

A Smith County judge sentenced convicted murderer Dennis Bendy to life in prison Thursday.

Bendy was found guilty of murder on Aug. 12 in the shooting death of 20-year-old Briana Young. Prosecutors said Young was caught in rival gang crossfire at Tyler's P.T. Cole Park. Bendy elected to go to a judge rather than a jury for punishment.

“This justice system is messed up and it needs to be fixed,” says Dennis Ray Bendy, Dennis Bendy's father.

Even after a murder conviction and life sentence, Bendy maintains his son's innocence.

“I feel sorry for Miss Young. I don't want to see anybody lose their life and I know my son hates that she lost her life, but he didn't do it,” he said.

In court, prosecutors told the judge Bendy deserved nothing less than a life sentence.

“Because he had no remorse for anything that he did. He wanted no accountability in taking her life. As Briana Young lay there taking her last breath trying to protect her 2-year-old, as the court heard, [his] only concern was to get away with it,” said Smith County District Attorney Matt Bingham.

Defense witnesses testified Bendy was capable of being a productive member of society.

“It's been a privilege for me to know him and meet him,” said LaRoyce Britton, an East Texas youth pastor.

However, prosecutors told the court Bendy should be put away for the rest of his life.

“There has to come a point where he knows and the people that choose this lifestyle know that you don't do it in public. The courts won't tolerate it, the people won't tolerate it, and the police department won't tolerate it,” said Bingham.

Before announcing Bendy's life sentence, Judge Jack Skeen spoke directly to him.

“At some point, gangs in Tyler and Smith County and the members of those gangs are going to have to understand that they don't own the parks and they don't own the city. They don't have turf that they own,” he said.

Bendy's father said he's going to fight to get his son's conviction overturned.

“All three of my children are in jail. My wife is dead… What else can I do? I'm going to fight for my children… I'm going to do everything in my power to prove my son's innocent,” he said.

Bendy's defense attorney announced in court that Bendy will be filing an appeal.

Copyright 2014 KLTV. All rights reserved.

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