Man apologizes for slaying

SEATTLE - A 20-year-old man who fatally shot a Seattle hip-hop artist last year apologized during his sentencing hearing, saying he prays the family of Joseph Ryan forgives him.

The Seattle Times reported that Carlos Bernardez said in court Friday that he takes full responsibility for the damage he has done.

Ryan was shot dead when Bernardez opened fire inside Chop Suey on Jan. 4, 2009 — a result prosecutors say is from a long-standing dispute between a man Bernardez knew and another man.

Bernardez was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

King County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Ramsdell read a letter from Ryan’s mother to Bernardez, in which she told him: “Don’t let jail destroy you.”

Ryan’s mother also implored Bernardez to make something of his life.

Bernardez had entered an Alford plea last month, which means he agreed a jury would likely find him guilty of first degree murder in Ryan’s death and two counts of second-degree assault in wounding club promoter James Jones.

Charging documents say Bernardez knocked on the club’s back door and requested entry. He then spoke to Ryan and two other men, opened fire and fled.

Bernardez told police that he had been outside the club with his girlfriend when Roger La Branche approached him and told him he would shoot him if he didn’t help in shooting men inside the club.

Jones told police he and La Branche had a longstanding dispute. La Branche was arrested but prosecutors had to drop charges due to lack of evidence.

“This is one more of those overall tragedies that the court sees far too often,” King County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Ramsdell said. “One life was lost, and one was changed forever. The implications of what happened are huge for everybody.”