An argument at a basketball game at Fort Bragg in 2007 led to murder at a nightclub in Fayetteville, Cumberland County prosecutors said.
One of the suspects was sent to prison for the rest of his life, one is on probation for the next three years, and the third is free after a jury found him not guilty Friday.
William Maniaci Jr. was found not guilty of the murder of 22-year-old James Behlin of Fayetteville.
Behlin's mother, Christianna, is Cumberland County Sheriff Moose Butler's secretary.
Maniaci, of Marion, Ohio, was an Army sergeant stationed at Fort Bragg in 2007, said Assistant District Attorney James Baker, while Behlin was the son of a military retiree.
Jurors did not think there was strong enough testimony from the prosecution witnesses to find Maniaci guilty, said Assistant District Attorney Charles Scott.
Baker said the murder stemmed from friction between two groups who played basketball at a gym on Fort Bragg.
According to the investigation, Baker said, Maniaci and two friends from the game, Quintarus Kentae Rhodes and Revaldo Rhodes, by chance encountered Behlin and his friends a month or two later at the Club Palace nightclub on Bragg Boulevard.
The Rhodeses are cousins.
Baker said the prosecution's case posited that Maniaci and the Rhodeses left and came back with two 9 mm pistols. Quintarus Rhodes fired one, hitting Behlin and two other people, Baker said. Maniaci had a pistol but did not shoot, Baker said, and Revaldo Rhodes did not have a gun.
Behlin died of his injuries several days later. The other two victims did not have life-threatening injuries, police said in 2007.
Revaldo Rhodes pleaded guilty in 2009 three counts of accessory after the fact to felony assault. In exchange for his plea, he was to testify against Quintarus Rhode and Maniaci.
Revaldo Rhodes' testimony in 2011 helped the state convict Quintarus Rhodes of first-degree murder and two counts of assault. He is serving life in prison without parole.
At Maniaci's trial this week, Baker and Scott said, Revaldo Rhodes' testimony was not as strong as it was in 2011. He frequently said he didn't know the answers to the prosecutors' questions, Scott said.
The Behlin family was surprised by Maniaci's not-guilty verdict, said James Behlin's father, Homer Behlin.
"I dropped my head, to be frank with you, in disbelief," he said.
After Maniaci's trial ended Friday, Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Jim Ammons sentenced Revaldo Rhodes. "I've been waiting to send you to prison because you could have stopped it that night," Ammons told Rhodes.
Instead, Ammons gave Rhodes three years of probation and ordered him to pay $10,000 in restitution to Behlin's family for his funeral and other expenses from his death. Rhodes' family paid Friday afternoon.
If Rhodes violates his probation, he can be sent to prison for a minimum of six years and three months, and he could serve up to nine years and nine months.