CHICAGO (CBS)– Kenneth Williams, the alleged driver of the man suspected of killing Hadiya Pendleton, has been found guilty of one count of first degree murder and two counts of aggravated battery.

The jury deliberated for about three hours at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse Wednesday before returning a verdict finding Williams guilty on all three charges in connection with the January 2013 murder of Pendleton, a 15-year-old honor student who was shot and killed as she played in a park after school. The aggravated battery charges stem from two people injured in the shooting that took the teenager’s life.

A jury Wednesday found Kenneth Williams guilty in the death of Hadiya Pendleton.

Both reputed gang members, Williams and the alleged gunman, Micheail Ward, were tried together but with two separate juries. Ward’s jury is expected to start deliberations Thursday.

Prosecutors have said Ward shot and killed Pendleton at Harsh Park, as she and a group of friends were taking cover from the rain. Ward and Williams were said to have mistaken the group of high schoolers for rival gang members. Police and prosecutors have said the shooting was retaliation for a gang shooting that left Williams wounded.

Defense attorneys argued there is no physical evidence linking either Ward or Williams to the crime.

Several hours of Ward’s videotaped interrogation were aired during his trial this week, including his confession, which he later recanted.

Another video showing Williams rapping with reputed gang members was also shown in in court this week.

Prosecutors have said Williams and Ward were seen inside the getaway car, a white Nissan, fist-bumping in a celebratory motion after the shooting.

Williams, the driver of the Nissan, looked down as the verdict was read but remained mostly emotionless.

His uncle, Michael Beal, maintained his nephew’s innocence when speaking to reporters after the verdict was announced late Wednesday afternoon.

Beal made vague references to the shooting’s connection to the Obama’s. Shortly before she was gunned down, Pendleton had performed inaugural events for former president Barack Obama. Pendleton’s murder was brought even deeper into the spotlight when Michelle Obama attended her funeral.

“My nephew wasn’t nowhere near (the shooting),” Beal said. “We’ll get an appeal and get this solved.”

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Prosecutors have said Ward shot toward a group of people including Pendleton and her friends as they took cover from the rain that fell in the park that afternoon.  Police and prosecutors have said the shooting was intended to be in retaliation for a gang shooting that left Williams wounded.

Defense attorneys for both defendants have argued there is no physical evidence linking either Ward or Williams to the crime.

Cleopatra Pendleton said she planned to withhold comments to the media until after Ward’s jury reached a verdict.

Pendleton’s family members cried out in celebration immediately after the guilty verdict was read.

 

 

Vince Gerasole