SENTENCING UPDATE: Bennett sentenced to life after being convicted of attempted murder

When Derek Maude got into the car with Kaheem Bennett, he had no way of knowing he would be robbed, kidnapped, and paralyzed from a gunshot wound that severed his spinal cord.

On Jan. 25, 2015, Bennett and two others violently beat Maude before unlocking the doors of the car they had him trapped in. While Maude was running away, Bennett stepped out of the car and shot Maude in the back.

At the end of a trial prosecuted by Assistant State Attorney Bonde Johnson, a jury convicted Bennett Feb. 22 of attempted first-degree murder, robbery with a firearm, and armed kidnapping.

At his sentencing Thursday, Judge Sharon Franklin handed down a life sentence for each of the charges. She also sentenced Bennett to 15 years in prison for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, which will run concurrent to his life sentences.

Bennett was arrested by the Lakeland Police Department for Maude’s attempted murder in January of 2015.

Over the past three years, the numbers of Lakeland’s violent crimes and shootings have decreased by 32 percent. While Police Chief Larry Giddens said he believes Bennett’s arrest played a role in the reduction of violent crime, he cannot say how big or small that role was.

“Any time that we can take a violent criminal off the streets through the cooperative partnership between the State Attorney’s Office and The Lakeland Police Department, it makes all of the citizens of Lakeland safer,” Giddens said.

State Attorney Brian Haas said he’s grateful for the outcome of Bennett’s trial and sentencing.

“I appreciate the hard work of Assistant State Attorney Bonde Johnson and the thorough investigation of the Lakeland Police Department in sending Kaheem Bennet to prison for the rest of his life,” Haas said.