A mass shooting threat interrupted the sentencing hearing Tuesday as victims read impact statements
WAUKESHA, Wis. (WLS) -- Darrell Brooks was sentenced Wednesday in the Waukesha Christmas parade attack.
Brooks, 40, was convicted of killing six people and injuring dozens of others on November 21, 2021, turning a joyous afternoon into a massacre.
Judge Jennifer Dorow handed down consecutive life sentences, without the possibility of parole, to Brooks for each of the six people killed after he ran his SUV through the parade route.
She also gave 17.5 years each for 61 counts of recklessly endangering safety. Each charge comes with a maximum sentence of 12.5 years, but with the addition of an "enhancer," another five years was also added to each conviction. This convictions will also run consecutively on top of the life sentences.
Then, the judge gave Brooks another six consecutive sentences of 25 years each, for each count of hit-and-run resulting in death.
Brooks was also given two six-year sentences for each felony counts of bail jumping. Those will be consecutive to the other counts but concurrent to one another, the judge ordered.
Finally, he was given nine months, the maximum sentence, for the battery of his ex-girlfriend Erika Patterson, which will also be consecutive to the other sentences.
Brooks had been released from jail less than two weeks prior to the parade attack in a domestic abuse case, on $1,000 bail that prosecutors recommended and have since said was "inappropriately low." In that case, he allegedly ran over a woman who said she's the mother of his child, according to court documents.
Tuesday, 45 of the victims and people who lost their loved ones spoke directly to the defendant.
Court proceedings were stopped twice, once because of a phone threat and once because of Brooks' behavior.
Someone threatened a mass shooting at the courthouse in a phone call to the Waukesha County Communications Center at about at 9:40 a.m., said Waukesha County Sheriff's Office Lieutenant Nicholas Wenzel. The office increased security at the courthouse and on the county grounds. The sheriff's office, FBI and the Waukesha Police Department are investigating the threat.
The hearing resumed at about 11:15 a.m. In the afternoon, there more interruptions from Brooks, similar to his behavior at trial, and more denunciations from those whose lives he destroyed.
On the day of the attack, Sherry Sparks searched frantically for her sons, Tucker and Jackson, in the moments after Brooks sped through the crowd, mowing down people as if they were speed bumps. Jackson didn't make it, and Tucker was badly injured.
"Do you have any idea of gut wrenching it is to have to explain your 12-year-old son but his little brother isn't going to make it his injuries are too extensive for his little body to come back from and that he won't be coming home with us over again," Sparks said. "This morning, I should have spent the morning making breakfast, taking him to school, hearing about his day later and said I'm standing here in this courtroom asking for justice for my boys. We came so close to losing both of them that day. I miss Jackson every second of every single day. I feel gutted and broken it hurts to breathe sometimes. It hurts to live without him here."
"Nightmares, anxiety, panic attacks, depression, anger, guilt, shame... These are all things I and others deal with daily because Darrell Brooks drove through our joy and turned it to terror," said Jenny Gonzalez, who survived the attack.
During the court proceedings, he flipped through a book and didn't react to anyone who spoke.
"I don't believe that when the prison door closes on this villain, Mr. Brooks will think about me or any of his victims. The feeling is mutual," said Bill Mitchell, a parade marcher who was struck during the attack.
At one point, Brooks even rolled his eyes.
"Mr. Brooks, I hope that as I read my statement, you continue to roll your eyes. I hope you continue to laugh and just show how bored and unmoved you are by all of this, because I think that's important. It is important for the world to see that evil can be a tangible living breathing thing.
I think it is important for the world to see what human rot looks like," said Chris Owen, the son of a victim.
A child also spoke at the hearing.
"On the way to the hospital, we had to lay our head down on the floor because we heard there was a shooter," the child said. "My fingers, my whole body was paralyzed in fear and when we made it to the hospital, I was terrified because I thought I broke my fingers. And when they asked me what happened, I was too busy crying I couldn't speak."
There is no death penalty in Wisconsin.
"You are a monster. You deserve contempt and death," one speaker said. "Sadly, with no death penalty in the state, I can only hope they lock you away someplace so deep the rats chew on your fingers at night. As for me this will never be over until the day I am pissing* (bleep out) on your grave. I think it would be fair to say that for your crimes even God hates you."
"I, too, regret Wisconsin does not have the death penalty because if someone ever deserved it the convicted most certainly does. Life in prison is too kind; that Bible on your table will not do you any good for where you will end up," said David Sorensen, the husband of Virginia Sorensen, who was killed in the attack.
State law doesn't place any restrictions on what can be said during victim impact statements other than that the remarks must be relevant to the sentence. The law doesn't define relevance; as long as people don't lapse into screaming or profanity, they will be free to say what they want.
Brooks chose to represent himself during his trial despite overwhelming evidence against him. The month-long trial was punctuated by erratic outbursts from Brooks, who refused to answer to his own name, frequently interrupted Dorow and often refused to stop talking. The judge often had bailiffs move him to another courtroom where he could participate via video but she could mute his microphone.
Brooks previously pleaded not guilty by insanity, but his public defenders withdrew the insanity plea in September. The attorneys later filed a motion to withdraw from the case, and the judge ruled to allow Brooks to represent himself at trial.
Prosecutors rejected the idea that Brooks is mentally incompetent and said his interruptions and defiant actions were simply attempts to disrupt the proceedings.
"These are deliberate actions on his part as we get closer and closer and closer to actually presenting this case to a jury, that he is attempting to derail these proceedings and avoid the inevitable," the prosecution said.
Judge Dorow agreed, saying she believed "it is the sole intent of Mr. Brooks to make a mockery of this process."
The Associated Press and CNN contributed to this report