UPDATED: Wednesday, May 12 at 11:45 a.m.
Two of the three men charged with the 2016 execution-style murder of Brookfield resident Michael Smith have accepted a plea deal and one of the pair is already free on parole.
Comfort Robinson, 44, and DeJuyon Johnican, 34, both pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, a Class 1 felony. Robinson pleaded guilty at a hearing on May 7 at the Maybrook courthouse, while Johnican pleaded guilty on May 10.
Both men had been charged in late 2016 with first-degree murder, a Class X felony that would have carried a prison sentence of between six and 30 years.
In pleading guilty to the lesser charge, both Robinson and Johnican were sentenced by Circuit Court Judge Geary Kull to eight years in prison. But because both men have served roughly half of that sentence already, their stays in a state prison may be short ones.
Brookfield Police Chief Edward Petrak declined to comment, but noted he was told that both Robinson and Johnican would not spend much time in state prison.
The Illinois Department of Corrections website on May 11 indicated that Robinson had been admitted to and paroled from Stateville Correctional Center on May 10.
Johnican’s IDOC profile, which was updated May 12, indicates he remains in custody at Stateville and that his parole date is “to be determined.” At the time of his plea hearing, Johnican was on parole for a 2016 weapons conviction.
Robinson had been jailed without bond since mid-December 2016, a couple of weeks after his arrest following a year-long investigation by Brookfield detectives, assisted by the FBI and the west suburban Major Case Assistance Team. Johnican was placed on electronic monitoring last August after posting 10 percent of his $250,000 bond.
The third man charged with first-degree murder is 29-year-old Jermaine Douglas. He was identified by police as the man who shot Smith to death at point-blank range as he sat in his car outside his home in the 3600 block of Forest Avenue.
Douglas also appeared in court May 10, and a jury trial for his case has been set to begin July 19 at the Maybrook courthouse.
Murder victim was trial witness
The man Douglas allegedly killed was 33-year-old Michael Smith, a security guard who had been called to testify against Robinson, who was accused of being a felon in possession of a weapon during an altercation outside of a Chicago nightclub where Smith was working on March 8, 2015.
Robinson’s bench trial was set for the morning of Jan. 27, 2016 and Smith was supposed to testify that day. Robinson’s attorney was granted a continuance and the trial was rescheduled.
Smith drove from court back home to Brookfield and parked his car out front on Forest Avenue. As he did so, Douglas allegedly pulled up next to him in a blue hatchback and fired around 10 rounds.
Police reported finding the blue hatchback two days later.
Those who knew “Big Mike” remembered him as gentle, and affable. Raised in Oak Park and a graduate of Oak Park and River Forest High School, Smith was married with a 3-year-old son at the time he was killed.
“His mom referred to him as her gentle giant,” said Doug Deuchler, who had lived next door to the Smith family in Oak Park for 25 years.
By mid-November, detectives had identified three suspects. On Nov. 15, 2016 they arrested Johnican without incident near his home in Cicero and apprehended Douglas after a high-speed chase involving Chicago police and the FBI on Chicago’s South Side. He reportedly was in possession of a handgun at the time, though police did not confirm whether it was the one used to kill Smith.
Police arrested Robinson two days later on the day he was scheduled to be released from Danville Correctional Center after serving nine months for an offense unrelated to the case involving Smith.