The Washington Post

Ivan Newman sentenced to 35 years in killing of Alexandria activist Lenny Harris

One of three men who helped kidnap, rob and kill a prominent Alexandria activist two years ago was sentenced Wednesday to 35 years in prison after admitting his involvement in the crime.

Under an agreement made with Prince George’s County prosecutors, 21-year-old Ivan Newman had pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the death of Lenwood “Lenny” Harris, who was kidnapped in September 2011. Harris was driven to an abandoned home in Fort Washington, shot in the head and thrown down a well.

“I understand that you weren’t the primary actor in this,” Judge Sean Wallace told Newman before imposing the sentence. “But you played a crucial role.”

Wallace sentenced Newman to 90 years in prison, with all but 35 years suspended, along with five years probation.

Harris, 53, was well known in the Alexandria community. He was involved in various efforts to help young people, including Operation HOPE, a nonprofit he co-founded that focused on mentoring and career development. He also ran a T-shirt company, and authorities said the attackers targeted him because they thought he had cash from the business. In fact, he had only $50 on him when he died.

Newman initially told prosecutors that he was involved in kidnapping and robbing Harris, but left before 28-year-old Tyrone Lewis shot and killed the man. In exchange for his cooperation and pleading guilty to robbery with a deadly weapon and related charges, he was offered a sentence of 15 years. Just before Lewis went to trial, prosecutors discovered that Newman had in fact been present for the murder as well, a spokesman for the Prince George’s County state’s attorney said, and the plea deal offered changed as a result.

Newman did not speak at his sentencing. However, in a letter written to Judge Wallace in September he said that at the time of the murder he was a confused, impressionable teenager who had gotten mixed up with the wrong people.

“Shedding innocent blood is definitely not in my blood, heart, or mind,” he wrote. “I want you to look at me as a person that has a soul and that I’m not just some monster.”

If he had tried to stop Lewis from killing Harris, Newman said, he would have become a victim himself.

Lewis was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole earlier this year. A third co-defendant, Linwood Johnson, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and has yet to be sentenced.

Rachel Weiner covers local politics for The Washington Post.

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