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Boy charged in Ryan Harris case gets 52 years for attempted murder

Romarr Gipson

Romarr Gipson

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Updated: July 17, 2012 12:42PM

As a 7-year-old, Romarr Gipson was one of two little boys wrongfully charged with the infamous 1998 rape and murder of 11-year-old Ryan Harris.

Now 21, Gipson will spend most of his adulthood in prison after Cook County Judge Brian K. Flaherty sentenced him Friday to 52 years behind bars for a 2006 shooting at a Citgo gas station in Calumet Park.

Flaherty in July 2010 found Gipson guilty of attempted murder, aggravated battery with a firearm and aggravated discharge of a firearm into a vehicle after a bench trial at the Markham courthouse.

Armed with 9mm handguns, Gipson, then 15, and his older stepbrother Roman Foreman walked up to a parked car at 123rd and Halsted and began firing, hitting two people inside on June 14, 2006, authorities said.

The double shooting, which was caught on surveillance cameras, could have been worse if Gipson’s gun had not jammed, investigators said at the time.

“Romarr Gipson and Roman Foreman didn’t shoot these guys out of need for personal gain,” Assistant State’s Attorney Joe Kosman said. “From the tape it appears they shot them for sport.”

And because Gipson used a gun, Kosman argued, 52 should be the minimum number of years he faced. Flaherty, though he acknowledged Gipson’s “tragic” past, agreed.

“This case is nothing but an ambush,” he said, announcing his sentence.

Gipson did not speak. He spent the hearing moving a red pen across yellow sheets of paper. Sobs erupted from where hismother and other relatives sat.

Foreman still awaits trial on the same charges.

Gipson was arrested on charges of drug possession, aggravated assault with a dangerous weapon and resisting arrest while out on bond in 2008. He was also charged in 2010 with aggravated battery to an officer, according to court records. He has already served his sentences in those cases, records show.

Gipson and an 8-year-old boy made national headlines in 1998 when they were charged with raping and murdering Harris, who was found dead in a vacant Englewood lot.

The charges against the boys were dropped, and DNA evidence later linked the crime to Floyd Durr, a South Side man.

Durr pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison for murdering and sexually assaulting Harris.

Gipson was exonerated and was awarded a $2 million settlement from the city of Chicago for his wrongful arrest.

His attorney from Northwestern University Law School, Jeffrey Urdangen, argued that Gipson had been found mentally unfit in past juvenile cases since he was scarred by what happened to him as a 7-year-old. He asked for a six-year sentence.

Flaherty told him to take it up on appeal, which Urdangen said he plans to do.

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