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Updated Friday, December 7, 2012 at 10:46 PM

Man guilty in death of 'Tuba Man' held on federal weapons charge

By Mike Carter
Seattle Times staff reporter

The last time 19-year-old Billy Chambers went to prison, he served about two-thirds of a 22-month sentence for ramming a woman's car and running her off the road.

It was just the latest in a string of trips in and out of juvenile detention, jail and finally state prison for Chambers, who has a long criminal history, but is perhaps best known for his role in the 2008 beating death of Ed "Tuba Man" McMichael.

On Friday, Chambers graduated to a new level of trouble — and is facing serious prison time — after being charged in U.S. District Court with being a felon in possession of a firearm. The federal charge carries a 10-year prison sentence and up to five years of supervised release when he gets out.

Chambers was targeted by a cross-designated state-federal prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Hobbs, who reviews every firearms arrest in King County and determines which cases should be taken into the federal system.

The difference in sentences is stark: A state conviction for a felon being caught with a gun rarely exceeds three years, according to prosecutors.

The federal charge stems from Chambers' arrest on Oct. 3 after King County sheriff's deputies stopped a car he was driving in Burien after someone reported that he and a companion had stolen items out of a vehicle, according to a probable-cause statement outlining the police case.

Deputies discovered a rifle in the trunk, the statement says.

Since spending nearly 18 months at Maple Lane School in Centralia for his role in McMichael's death and another robbery on the same night, Chambers has been arrested at least five times and convicted of crimes on two separate occasions. Because he's a felon, Chambers cannot possess firearms.

Chambers was released from the Monroe Correctional Complex on Sept. 18 after serving a portion of his sentence for attempted second-degree-assault. Chambers pleaded guilty to the charge in October 2011, admitting that he deliberately rammed a woman's car in June 2011 after she reported him to police for an earlier car prowl.

In July 2010, Chambers, then 17, and two other teens were arrested and charged with robbing a man at gunpoint in downtown Seattle. Chambers later pleaded guilty to first-degree theft and was sentenced to eight months in juvenile detention.

Chambers was one of three juveniles who pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter in the Oct. 25, 2008, fatal beating of McMichael, known for playing his tuba outside Seattle sporting events for two decades. The juveniles were 15 when they attacked McMichael.

The sentences for Chambers and the two other youths outraged many in the community. Because no witnesses came forward, King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said, his office was forced to charge the three teens as juveniles instead of seeking to have them charged as adults, which would have carried a longer sentence.

Mike Carter: 206-464-3706 or mcarter@seattletimes.com

Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this report.



Billy Chambers, guilty in "Tuba Man" beating death




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