J.C. Watts' brother sentenced to prison

Saturday, November 6th 2004, 4:53 pm
By: News On 6

EUFAULA, Okla. (AP) _ The brother of former U.S. Rep. J.C. Watts Jr. has been sentenced to 25 years in prison for shooting a man to death outside Watts' restaurant.

Lawrence Tyrone Watts, 54, was sentenced by former District Judge Steven Taylor, who found Watts guilty of first-degree manslaughter after a nonjury trial on Sept. 16.

Since then, Taylor was appointed to the Oklahoma Supreme Court but was assigned to finish the sentencing stage of Watts' trial. First-degree manslaughter carries a punishment range of four years to life.

Taylor rejected defense attorney Gloyd McCoy's request for a short sentence but rejected McIntosh County Assistant District Attorney Greg Stidham's request for a life sentence or one not less than 30 years.

A presentence report indicated that Watts was a ``low risk'' for reoffending, but did not recommend a sentence. The report also indicated Watts had been managing a ranch owned by his younger brother, J.C. Watts, for the past 14 months.

J.C. Watts attended the sentencing, but left just after Taylor handed down the sentence.

Watts shot Anthony Greco, 49, on June 25, 2003, claiming Greco made demands for money owed for demolishing a Watts' rental house.

Testifying at his trial, Watts said Greco bumped him outside Watts' barbecue restaurant.

``He turned toward his truck and said, `I'm going to kill you,''' Watts testified. ``I pulled my gun and shot him.''

Watts also said the two had several confrontations in previous days and once at Watts' church earlier on June 25.

In considering a sentence, Taylor recounted testimony that showed Greco took no aggressive action against Watts and had no weapon when his body was found. But Watts shot Greco three times _ twice in the side and once in the back, Taylor said.

Watts could have avoided any of the confrontations and gone to law enforcement officials, Taylor said.

The manslaughter was one crime, Taylor said. The second crime ``figuratively'' occurred when Watts didn't seek medical help for Greco. Instead, Taylor said, Watts drove around Eufaula, ``shopping for lawyers'' before going to the courthouse, where he surrendered to another judge.

That amounted to aggravating circumstances against Watts and warranted a tougher sentence, Taylor said.

Taylor also criticized people who think a gun is a solution to all problems.

``Those who take that position are causing the problems of our society today,'' Taylor said.

Taylor, of McAlester, noted that many of Watts' family members and community leaders wrote letters urging mercy and leniency.

However, ``Mr. Watts rendered little mercy and little leniency to Mr. Greco,'' Taylor said.