But in a shocking turn of events, the man who admitted to killing Stewart has managed to escape murder charges, The Daily Wire reports.
According to the Washington Examiner, Montez Terriel Lee was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison this week after he pleaded guilty to a single count of arson over a blaze that left Stewart dead. The sentencing came after Justice Department prosecutors sought “a downward variance” in Lee’s sentence.
Video footage showed Lee pouring gasoline around the Max It Pawn Shop in Minneapolis before setting the building on fire.
He then posed in front of the blaze with a clenched fist, saying, “F*** this place. We’re going to burn this b**** down!”
Lee’s sentencing documents state that the victim’s charred body was later discovered by authorities as they searched through the rubble.
Motive “is a foremost issue”
However, the document argues that Lee’s “motive for setting the fire is a foremost issue,” as he claimed to have been “in the streets to protest unlawful police violence against Black men, and there is no basis to disbelieve this statement.”
The Post Bulletin quoted Judge Wilhelmina Wright as telling Lee that he has “a chance to move forward and contribute to a better life for yourself, to a better life for those that you love and to a better life for others.”
“I hope that you use your prison term to address the struggles that you have, Mr. Lee, and to commit to treating and working through your depression, your anxiety, your PTSD,” she added, “and I hope that you also realize how your actions impact others.”
“It’s a murder case”
The light charge and relatively short prison sentence didn’t go over well with many observers, including former federal prosecutor Neama Rahmani, who told the Examiner that it “could have been tried as a capital case.”
“Even if conduct isn’t charged under the sentencing guidelines, any relevant conduct can be considered by the sentencing judge in fashioning an appropriate sentence,” Rahmani said.
“Any time there is a felony committed — and arson is a felony — and a death ensues, that’s homicide,” the lawyer added. “It doesn’t matter that just the arson was charged because someone died as a result. It’s a murder case.”