Teens who beat 'Tuba Man' to death sentenced

Teens who beat 'Tuba Man' to death sentenced »Play Video
Tuba Man Edward McMichael. (Photo: Scott Eklund / Seattle Post-Intelligencer / 2007)
SEATTLE - Three teens who beat to death Ed McMichael, better known as the "Tuba Man," were sentenced to 15-36 weeks in juvenile detention on Wednesday.

Kenneth Kelly, 15, Billy Chambers, 16, and Ja'Mari Jones, 16, will be given credit for the roughly 24 weeks they've already spent in custody.

The teens pleaded guilty April 3 to first-degree manslaughter in King County Juvenile Court. Because they are not legally adults, none could face a sentence longer than 72 weeks in juvenile detention.

Chambers and Jones were also sentenced to 36 weeks in detention for an unrelated robbery, and the two sentences were ordered to run consecutively.

McMichael, a beloved character on the Seattle scene who played his tuba outside many public events, was walking home near a bus stop on Seattle's Mercer Street last Oct. 25 when five teens attacked him. Police said the five kicked and beat him and tried to rob him.

Three suspects were caught, but two others ran off and still have not been found.

The killing was a traumatic event for many in the city of Seattle, where Tuba Man was a beloved fixture who played before and after sporting events and other performances. He was attacked outside the Opera House, literally in the shadow of the Space Needle.

There was a five-month delay in the case because no witnesses came forward to testify, even though it's believed that up to a dozen people saw the brutal attack last fall.

A police officer drove up to the scene and saw McMichael in the fetal position trying to protect himself. The officer was able to capture and arrest two of the attackers, but three others got away.

McMichael was treated at Harborview Medical Center and sent home. He was recovering at the Vermont Inn where he lived when he died two days later.

A third suspect was arrested days later.

At the sentencing hearing Wednesday, Jones was the only one of the three teens who chose to speak.

"I would like to apologize to the family and friends of Mr. Ed McMichael," he said.

But in his next breath he denied any involvement. "I did not participate in either of these horrific crimes that I plead to."

The Tuba Man's throaty notes were unmistakable presence in the city.

Since the early 1990s, McMichael had been a fixture outside Seattle sporting events and Seattle Opera performances, wearing funny hats and playing songs on his tuba he called "his baby."

After the Tuba Man was beaten, his brother Kelsey McMichael, who lives in Florida, came to Seattle to help him recover. Kelsey said Ed was simply not the same after the attack.

"He was definitely traumatized. The first thing he said to me when I knocked on his door was, 'I can't leave this room,'" he said.

In court Wednesday, Kelsey said at first he was very angry and wanted to see the teens punished severely.

"My feelings about the loss of my brother began to change as I began talking to reporters, Ed's former classmates, and fellow musicians," he said.