Suspect in would-be murder-for-hire plot sentenced to prison on unrelated charges

James G. Spears, a key prosecution witness in the Keith Antoine Spratt capital murder trial in...
James G. Spears, a key prosecution witness in the Keith Antoine Spratt capital murder trial in December, pleaded guilty Thursday to two counts of aggravated robbery and one count of unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon.(KWTX)
Published: Jul. 14, 2022 at 5:57 PM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - A Waco man who testified last year he was arrested before he could accept a friend’s offer to kill a man was sentenced to eight years in prison Thursday on unrelated charges.

James G. Spears, a key prosecution witness in the Keith Antoine Spratt capital murder trial in December, pleaded guilty Thursday to two counts of aggravated robbery and one count of unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon in exchange for concurrent eight-year prison terms on all counts.

Prosecutors also agreed to dismiss a pending aggravated assault charge and waived enhancement allegations against Spears, 36, in the plea agreement. Spears faced maximum life prison terms.

Spears, who has been in the McLennan County Jail 2,403 days, will be given credit for the 6 1/2 years he has been held. He should be eligible for parole as soon as he gets to prison, officials said. At $80 a day to house jail inmates, Spears’ incarceration so far has cost the county $192,240.

Spears pleaded guilty to robbing at gunpoint two men who were sitting in a car in the 2200 block of Trice Avenue in December 2015.

Spears testified in Spratt’s trial that he was jailed with Spratt, and Spratt confessed to him that Tyler Sherrod Clay paid him to kill Joshua Ladale Pittman because Pittman robbed Clay after a dice game.

A 19th State District Court acquitted Spratt on the capital murder charge despite witnesses identifying him as the masked gunman. He was charged with shooting Pittman multiple times and killing him while Pittman was playing video gambling machines at the Pick N Pay Foodmart, 504 Faulkner Lane, in December 2015.

Clay was convicted of criminal solicitation of capital murder in December 2018 in Pittman’s death. However, the 10th Court of Appeals reversed Clay’s conviction in May 2021 and awarded him a new trial.

Clay pleaded guilty in June to a reduced charge of criminal solicitation in exchange for a recommendation by prosecutors that he be sentenced to four years and nine months in prison, the time he had served in the county jail.

Officials said the plea deal would allow Clay to be released immediately from custody.

Spears testified at Spratt’s trial that he and Clay were close friends and Clay told him that Pittman robbed him. He told the jury that Clay offered him $10,000 to kill Pitman, which confounded him because he said he would have done it for free because they were friends.

Spears said he was on parole at the time and didn’t have a gun. He said he was trying to find one to kill Pittman when he was arrested in an unrelated robbery.

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