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Friday, April 21, 2017 1:00 am

Parking lot gunman found guilty

Convicted of murder in killing at steakhouse last summer

FRANK GRAY | The Journal Gazette

A jury found a man guilty of murder and other charges Thursday in an August shooting death at a north-side restaurant. 

Andrew Cassaday, 29, was convicted of murder, carrying a handgun without a license and using a handgun in a crime in the Aug. 14 fatal shooting of Jeffrey Lute, 28. The shooting occurred during a confrontation in the parking lot at Texas Roadhouse, 710 W. Washington Center Road. The case went to the jury about 10:30 a.m. and the jury reached a verdict about 5:30 p.m.

Cassaday will be sentenced May 26 and could receive as much as 65 years in prison.

During closing arguments, defense attorney Seth Tipton said the prosecution hadn't proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Cassaday, who claimed the shooting was in self-defense, committed murder.

“What was in Andrew's heart?” he asked. “They have to prove he had a murderous intent.”

Tipton said Cassaday had gone to the restaurant because he learned Lute was eating there and he wanted to confront him along with other members of a motorcycle club in which Lute was once a member. The faceoff involved what was called continuing tensions.

“He had no intent other than to argue or yell,” Tipton said. That's not illegal. It's stupid, but not illegal, he said.

After Lute shot one club member who had backed him down through the parking lot and halfway past the building, Cassaday got his gun because he just wanted Lute, who had run around the building, to get back, Tipton said.

The prosecution, though, said Cassaday had lied on the stand and lied about the gun he used, telling his girlfriend to tell police it was her gun.

Deputy Prosecutor Tom Chaille said Cassaday told five different stories about why he had gone to the restaurant that night. At first he said he went there because another club member had gone there, but he didn't know why. He eventually acknowledged that he had gone there to confront Lute.

After one club member was shot, others took cover, but Cassaday didn't duck or flee or tell his girlfriend to get out, Chaille said. He went to his car, got his gun, went to the brightest spot in the parking lot and waited for Lute, who had run behind the restaurant, to come around the building, Chaille said. “He walks to where he (Lute) will emerge and ambushes him for the second time that night” Chaille said.

“It's not self-defense,” Chaille said. “The threat was over.”

During deliberations Thursday, jurors asked the court for a definition of “without fault.” The judge told the jury there wasn't a legal definition of the term, but that he would let the prosecution and defense address the jury. They declined.

The defense asked for a recess so they could do research to find pertinent case law, but Judge John Surbeck denied that. Instead the jurors were given a brief phrase from a summation of a case in which an argument of self-defense was rejected.

fgray@jg.net