Go inside the courtroom: What both sides said before sentencing for a 2017 fatal Middletown bar shooting

A Middletown man was sentenced to 40 years to life in prison Tuesday for fatally shooting one victim and wounding others in 2017 at the D&J’s Nite Spot in Middletown.

Last month after a trial in Butler County Common Pleas Court, a jury found Malcolm Franklin guilty of murder, three counts of felonious assault, and tampering with evidence for firing 11 shots into a group of four people on the patio of the Middletown bar on May 30, 2017.

Julian Johnson died at the scene, two others were injured and one narrowly escaped physical injury.

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The 28-year-old took the stand in his own defense and said he was scared for his life after alleged threats made against him on social media. He said he did not go to the bar that night to shoot anyone but simply to talk to Johnson.

But prosecutors say the Louisiana native acted with “absolute callousness and disregard for human life.”

Prosecutors laid out a timeline for jurors during trial, saying Franklin went alone to the bar on Elliott Drive, sent his ride away and then did not go into the bar. Instead, they said, he walked around the back to a fence and opened fire 19 seconds later when Johnson walked outside the bar.

“Of the 11 gunshots Franklin fired, eight hit their target,” said Assistant Prosecutor Jon Marshall.

A gun and a magazine loaded with 29 bullets were found under Johnson’s body, but there is no evidence it was fired.

At sentencing, defense attorney Frank Schiavone III again pointed to the handgun found under Johnson as evidence that Johnson acted in self defense.

“This isn’t a situation where a man went in to a bar to kill all these people,” Schiavone III said. He said Johnson was on the right path in Louisiana until his school closed and he came to Middletown where “he ended up in a really bad place with really bad people.”

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Franklin told the judge he believed he did not get a fair trial and had lost faith in the justice system.

“I got into an altercation with a known drug dealer” Franklin said, adding the evidence says he was not the aggressor. A person in the courtroom said “that’s lie.”

Franklin’s mother, Eleanor Collins, told the judge she was not going to point fingers, “I only ask for mercy.”

Ken Johnson, Julian Johnson’s father, told the judge his son was a rapper who was trying to do things “the positive way.” His son did carry a gun and told him to also carry a gun because people were trying to kill him, Ken Johnson said.

Assistant Prosecutor Kraig Chadrick told the judge Franklin never showed remorse and the jury found there was no evidence of self defense.

Butler Common Pleas Judge Charles Pater said the jury had found Franklin guilty and the evidence presented at trial indicated Franklin went to the back of the bar lying in wait for Johnson and then “fired away.”

Pater sentenced Franklin to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 40 years. He faced a maximum sentence of 54 years to life in prison.

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