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tv   Nightline  ABC  February 18, 2016 12:37am-1:07am EST

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this is "nightline." >> tonight, four teenagers' lives forever changed in an instant. a costly mistake with shocking consequences. >> he's got a dead body. >> they were sentenced to decades behind bars even though none of them pulled the trigger. >> i didn't kill anyone. >> the controversial conviction firestorm. >> i think it's overkill. >> their mothers now on a mission to free their sons. we take you inside the prison the young men dreaming of a second chance. and we're right there as their lives change yet again.
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tantrum at "saturday night live" leaked online tonight. it comes after the man behind "gold digger" claimed he was millions in debt and started a new fight with taylor swift. so just venting or this is a sign that his good life is unraveling in the spotlight? but first the "nightline 5." >> the nissan rogue with the power and performance of our intuitive all-wheel drive. now get a $189 per month lease
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good evening. tonight the story of five young men who did an admittedly stupid thing. they broke into what they thought was an empty home and one of then ended up dead. critics say what happened next was injustice. the boys were charged and convicted of felony murder even though none of them pulled the trigger. my "nightline" coanchor juju chang had been following this case for years and tonight she's right there for major new developments. >> oh my gosh. i don't want him sitting there another minute. >> reporter: for april erdos, the drive to wabash prison is one she knows far too well. >> three years, three months, some-odd days. >> reporter: the many long days this mother's been fighting for the freedom of her 20-year-old son levi.
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it comes down to the love you have for your child. that's what makes it hurt so bad. >> reporter: levi was sentenced to 50 years in prison for felony murder, even though he didn't pull the trigger. he didn't even have a gun. >> i just want to see his face. that's going to be a kodak moment right there. >> reporter: more than 250 miles away in elkhart, indiana, levi's life was forever changed on a fall day in 2012. he was hanging out with four of his friends. among them 21-year-old denzel layman. >> got off school that day. we ended up talking. coming up with dumb-ass plans. >> reporter: the plan was to rob an empty house. >> why an empty house? >> it was just a plan to get quick money, it was never a confront anyone. >> were any of your armed? >> no. >> reporter: they settled on this house across the street. >> you're convinced nobody's inside?
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i mean, not like -- not just rung the doorbell, knocked. >> reporter: while the four teens entered the house they thought was empty levi stayed on the porch at a lookout. >> you didn't say, hey, fellows, this is a bad idea? >> i could have. but no, i didn't. >> there was a boom and my whole house shook. >> reporter: the testimony of rodney scott, homeowner. he was home. upstairs taking a nap. >> fear coming over you and you don't know if you're going to get hurt or if you're going to get killed. that's when i decided i was going to fire my gun and try to trap them. >> i heard a bang. and then i heard another bang. and then i heard a couple more bangs afterward. turn around and run away from the gun. felt something warm. came up with a handful of blood. >> that's when you realized you were shot? >> that's when is. ed i was shot. that's the hole. >> the entry wound there is -- >> reporter: then blake realized his friend denzel was slumped
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>> he died in your arms? >> he died in between, like right in between me and jose. i remember screaming "i'm sorry" over and over again. >> to whom were you sorry? >> the homeowner, i was sorry period. you know. it was a bad situation. i was sorry for it all. >> reporter: his friends called him for help. >> i stepped inside the door, looked over, the guy was holding the gun at me. i threw my hands open, he told me to get out of his house, i said i'm sorry and took off. >> reporter: one week later -- >> they called me and said he'd been arrested for murder. >> reporter: that's right. murder. felony murder. because when someone's killed during certain crimes, in this case burglary, everyone committing that crime can be held responsible. even though none of them pulled the trigger or even had a gun. even levi. who was just the lookout. >> i didn't really comprehend it. i didn't put my mind around what
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>> the point of the felony murder law is basically to say, and someone ends up getting killed? then you're going to be held death. what makes this case different weapons. none of them were violent. and anyone of them killed anyone. >> reporter: in this case the homeowner, rodney scott, the man who pulled the trigger, was never charged with wrongdoing. scott was so haunted by what happened there he never lived in the house again. one of the four, 16-year-old jose cueros, took a plea bargain. the other three teenagers, with no history of violent crime, decided to stand trial, placing their fate in the hands of a jury. >> what is your thought on how fair or not this charge is? >> to me, we all should be charged for what we done that day, but nobody committed murder, why should we be charged with it? >> serious things did happen.
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i'm not saying i don't deserve time. four days. guilty of an adult crime. >> the decision was real hard for me. i'm still torn over it. i have a hard time talking about it, really. >> reporter: 17-year-old levi was sentenced to 50 years in 16-year-old blake and 18-year-old anthony sharp each got 55 years. >> i think it's insane. i think it's overkill. and i think it's unjust. and needs to be remedied. >> reporter: their controversial sentences drew national attention from nancy grace -- >> you've got a dead body. >> reporter: to dr. phil. >> were these boys thugs? >> no, not at all. >> reporter: their mothers mobilized, filing appeals to overturn what they believe to be unjust and cruel sentences. >> we want to keep the word out. we want people not to forget about these boys that are locked up and need our support. >> reporter: at the center of
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>> i think the argument of just a layperson is, those boys shouldn't have been committing burglary in the first place. >> right. >> yeah. >> we don't disagree with that. our point of contention is how much punishment they should receive and what they should be punished for. >> reporter: the outraged moms insisting they'd take the case to the supreme court. >> these kids aren't murderers and they don't deserve 50, 55 years for something they didn't do. >> reporter: when we first visited the prison in 2014, levi was 19. living on the adult side. separated from blake, who's still a juvenile. >> show me your ink. >> reporter: he is time in prison literally etched on his skin. tattoos he illicitly got behind bars. >> the hourglass is broken. to show that it's wasted time. >> that's your sentence, 50 years. >> yes. being behind bars ain't nothing like being on the outs. this is constantly what we see every day. this. >> depressing. >> horrible. >> reporter: and sometimes dangerous. >> fight?
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there's an incident. >> weapons team assemble. somebody's hurt. it gives you chills. it could be you any day. >> reporter: we find blake on the juvenile suft prison. >> this is your world, basically. >> yeah. >> reporter: blake is about to turn 18 and will soon join levi on the adult side. >> i want to make a cake. i'm going to clean this out and just take honey buns and stuff like that, make a layered cake. >> reporter: both teenagers still hold out hope they'll be free soon enough to make studying for their ged pay off. >> i'm trying as best i can. i don't want to be the same person when i get out. i want to be a different person. all this stuff that i was doing out there, drinking, smoking, not doing good in school,
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to go back to that same stuff. >> reporter: for blake and levi, time stands still. while their mothers fight on the outside, fueled by the possibility of freedom. >> oh, my heart's a-pounding. >> reporter: a breakthrough when we come back. what body aches? what knee pain? what sore elbow? what joint pain? advil liqui-gels are so fast, they make pain a distant memory nothing works faster stronger or longer than advil liqui-gels the world's #1 choice what pain? advil.
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19-year-old blake layman and 20-year-old levi sparks have spent the last three years of their young lives inside these walls. and they could be behind bars
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murder in the death of their friend denzel johnson, though neither of them pulled the trigger. >> what do you miss while you're behind bars? >> family. that's basically all it is, just family. >> reporter: on the outside, their families haven't stopped fighting for their freedom. >> right now it's like keep the prayers going and just keep supporting these boys and hopefully the supreme court will see it different. >> blake layman, levi sparks, anthony sharp jr. -- >> they're convicted of the crime of felony murder. >> yes. >> no other counts on which there was convictions? >> what happens? >> my understanding is that they would be returned back to juvenile court, some of them would, to stand for a waiver hearing on just the burglary. >> reporter: finally after years of appeals their fight paying off. >> this morning the indiana supreme court overturned murder convictions of three of the so-called elkhart four. >> reporter: the indiana supreme
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controversial felony murder convictions. >> basically ruled that there was no way these young men could have foreseen that there would be a death, and consequently that the felony murder rule shouldn't apply here. >> reporter: the young men now have hope for a chance at a real future. but they must wait to hear what their new sentences will be. >> how do you feel about today? >> nervous. real nervous. excited. >> reporter: and on this cold january morning, the mothers of three of the elkhart four are anxiously awaiting news of their son's fate. >> what i'm hoping happens that they just time served and they can come home. >> reporter: but burglary carries a sentence from six to 20 years. so they may still have a lot more prison time ahead. >> everyone back. >> reporter: hours later the moment they've been waiting for. they emerge joyous. layman and sharp are sentenced to ten years in prison.
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a fraction of the 50 years they've been facing. and with time already served and time cuts for good behavior and completing his ged, levi will be getting out in a few weeks. >> we got justice today and that's what we wanted. that's where we've been. >> i'm very glad it's over. >> reporter: april erdos' final drive to wabash prison is here at last. >> he's going to have all kind of emotions when he gets out. >> i was extremely nervous. like my palms got sweaty. i was in there shaking. as soon as he said nine years i was like, whoo! i knew i was going to be home. >> i don't -- i think i'm going to be speechless. i'm just going to hug him. give him hugs like he's never had one before. did you see uncle levi?
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you're free, levi! thank god you're home. >> yeah, it's all over with. i love you. >> love you. >> reporter: a mother's heartache finally over. >> a car. >> how's it feel? >> a car. >> reporter: these are his first few moments of freedom. >> good. >> i can't imagine what you're feeling. >> god. that place was hell. >> reporter: a family road trip back to elkhart filled with simple pleasures. phone calls from loved ones. >> what is this? >> reporter: a new play list. >> i'm not saying anything. no, i'm not singing. absolutely not.
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facebook. >> what are you doing? >> posting on facebook. we have levi, on our way home. all right? >> reporter: but levi's release is bittersweet. he's leaving behind his best friend. >> blake gave you a hug good-bye this. >> uh-huh. he has about two months left. >> that's what i thought. >> yeah. >> reporter: by the time they alive in elkhart it's dusk. more family and friends are waiting to share a dinner of his own choosing. >> i already told everyone, once i get out i'm jumping into subway. we're going to get a sweet onion chicken teriyaki with bacon, an ons, pepper, jalapeno sauce. he's been dreaming about for years. >> yum! >> bye! it's great. just thankful.
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just thankful that i got a second chance. >> haven't really had a chance to soak it all in yet. i know it's going to be good. >> reporter: for levi his years served in prison perhaps not time lost but through self-reflection and wisdom gained, a life redirected. >> with this blessing, you know, i'm not going to start going out and doing stupid stuff again, you know. i'm a grown man now, i need to start doing what grown men do. that's get their life on track and live life in a positive way. that's what i plan on doing. >> reporter: for "nightline," i'm juju chang in carlisle, indiana. >> and we want to thank juju chang for that remarkable report, as well as call mary productions for hare help with that story. last week the last of the elkhart four, jose cueros, also had his felony conviction modified to burglary. he's expected to be released
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the leaked audiotape of kanye west reportedly freaking out backstage at "saturday night live" before performing "highlight." why he allegedly lost it. the bold nissan rogue, with intuitive all-wheel drive. because winter needs a hero. now get a $189 per month lease on the 2016 nissan rogue. nissan. innovation that excites. many sleep-aids have pain medicine but zzzquil is different because why would you take a pain medicine when all you want is good sleep? zzzquil: a non-habit forming
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finally the latest development in a loud and busy week for kanye west. this fresh twist comes in the form of a leaked audiotape. >> they took me [ bleep ] stage off of "snl" --
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>> don't [ bleep ] with me. >> the audio clip allegedly of kanye west backstage at the "saturday night live" studios released exclusively by the "new york post's" page 6. west appeared to perform "high lights" live for the first time. highlights >> a source close to west todd abc news he got angry when producers removed part of his carefully designed set shortly before he was supposed to take the stage and that this outburst was from a private venting session. during his tirade he claims to be 50% more influential than several historical figures. >> bro, by 50%, stanley kubrick, apostle paul, picasso, [ bleep ] and escobar. 50% more influential than any other human bing. >> reporter: he takes aim at taylor swift. >> add taylor swift. >> reporter: this is not kanye's
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first outbrs about taylor swift. >> reporter: the bad blood between the two dates back to 2009 at the vmas when kanye famously interrupted swift as she was accepting her best female video of the year award -- >> i'm going to let you finish but beyonce had one of the best videos of all time. >> reporter: last week he released "famous" which includes derogatory lines about swift. i feel like me and taylor might still have sex >> reporter: swift, who sang "out of the woods" and stayed out of the drama at this year's grammys said this after winning album of the year. >> there are going to be people along the way who will try to undercut your success, or take credit for your accomplishments or your fame. you'll look around and you will know that it was you and the people who love you who put you there. the american dream. >> reporter: sometimes it all falls down.
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somebody named kanye west that that don't kill me can only make me stronger. west. thank you for watching tonight. tune into gma first thing in the morning and as always we're online 24/7 on our "nightline" facebook page and abcnews.com. thanks again for watching and good night. the list starts now. cool techs to keep your pets entertained while you're way at work.
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>> and four new ways to stream new music for free. >> this is the best. >> the craziest seats in the house. they know how to throw a party at these sports venues. hello, welcome to the show. >> i'm donna ruko. let's start by counting down the three stories at the top list. >> troublesome kids, money problems, arguments and of course the greatest challenge of all, a trip to ikea. relationships can be hard, but finally a sweet solution at number three. >> you guys having a good experience today? no fights or anything. >> we introduce the official couple's therapist. >> it's like a relationship. it takes time to build and fall as part in nine weeks. >> it's not real but should be, since navigating with a loved one can be pretty challenging.

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