Chicago: Micheail Ward, a gang member who killed 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton six years ago on the crime-plagued south side of Chicago has been sentenced to 84 years in prison.
At Monday’s hearing, Micheail Ward, 24, denied he was the gunman who fired into the group of high school students, killing Hadiya and injuring two others.
Ward initially confessed during the lengthy investigation before recanting.
A week before she died, Hadiya had performed at President Barack Obama’s second inauguration.
The teenager was shot and killed when Ward and co-defendant Kenneth Williams attacked her and her friends in a park, mistaking them for members of a rival gang, police said.
Both men had ties to a violent Chicago gang.
Ward and Williams, who drove the getaway car, were found guilty of murder by a Chicago jury in August. Williams’ case was controversial, based on circumstantial evidence, US media report.
Ward protested his guilty verdict on Monday, telling prosecutors: “All y’all had to do was sit down and really investigate this crime.”
“Y’all would have seen what happened,” he added, looking at Hadiya’s parents in the courtroom. “She would know who killed her daughter for real.”
Cook County Judge Nicholas Ford lambasted Ward for his lack of remorse, and for demonstrating “a complete absence of empathy”.
“He placed blame on almost any source you can imagine, other than his own conduct,” the judge said after Ward’s statement.
Video of Ward’s initial confession to investigators was key in the case against him – a confession the defence has said was coerced.
Ward, who was 18 at the time of the shooting, said he only attacked the group because Williams, then 20, threatened to kill him if he refused.
Cleopatra Cowley, Hadiya’s mother, had urged the judge to give Ward the maximum sentence.
“Hadiya is serving a death sentence handed down by Micheail Ward, and all the family is doing life as a result,” she told the court in her impact statement.
After his sentencing, Ms Cowley told reporters she thought 84 years, “basically a life sentence”, befitted his crimes.
“Hadiya’s lost her life and now he’ll spend the rest of his life behind bars.”
Ward’s “life of crime built up to this situation”, she added, and that it was “inevitable” he would one day commit a crime “this heinous”.
In 2013, Hadiya’s death became a symbol of gun violence in Chicago, sparking vigils and calls for gun control. The young band majorette was one of hundreds shot in the city that year.
Mr Obama used her death in a plea for an end to gun violence in his 2013 State of the Union address. Hadiya’s parents both attended that address.
“Just three weeks ago, she was here, in Washington, with her classmates, performing for her country at my inauguration,” Mr Obama said.
“And a week later, she was shot and killed in a Chicago park after school, just a mile away from my house.”
Michelle Obama attended Hadiya’s funeral and gave a graduation speech to her classmates at King College Prep High School in 2015.