One of three Camden men accused in a fatal abduction from a casino parking garage has until March 13 to decide whether he will go to trial or accept a plea deal that would have him spend the next 40 years in prison.
Phillip Byrd, 21, shot a Middlesex County couple after he and two others carjacked them from the Trump Taj Mahal parking garage Sept. 18, 2011, according to the confession of co-defendant Eric Darden. Sunil Rattu, 28, was killed. His 25-year-old fiancee, Radha Ghetia was wounded but survived.
In a taped confession following his arrest, Byrd named Darden as the shooter. The plan, according to the video previously played in court, was to steal a car to sell to a “chop shop,” but then — after the couple was forced to drive to an alley off Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard — Darden began shooting.
But Darden, who pleaded guilty in December, said it was Byrd who was the shooter and made the decisions that day. A .357 revolver was found on Byrd at the time of his arrest, according to information given in court that day.
The deal presented to Byrd is 47 years with a mandatory term of 85 percent — or just less than 40 years, defense attorney Ed Weinstock told the judge Monday.
Chief Assistant Prosecutor John Maher said the defense had offered those numbers but that acting Atlantic County Prosecutor Jim McClain is “on board” with them.
Superior Court Judge Bernard DeLury gave Byrd until March 13 to decide whether he will take the deal or go to trial. The hearing is scheduled for the day before his 22nd birthday.
Before then, the defendant will appear in Superior Court in Camden, where he is charged in a double homicide. He and Raheem Simmons — who is also a co-defendant in the Atlantic City case — are accused in the killing of Antwan Brown and Travon Kinard, who were found shot to death July 26, 2011, inside a car in Camden.
Simmons was charged first in the case, then Byrd was charged after investigators allegedly found a phone under the car with text messages between the two about the killing.
Weinstock told the judge he would be defending Byrd in that case as well. A status conference is scheduled Feb. 25 in Camden.
Byrd is being held at the Wagner Youth Correctional Facility in Yardville, Burlington County, serving a five-year prison sentence for weapon possession. He is eligible for parole in that case in April 2014.
Contact Lynda Cohen:
Follow @LyndaCohen on Twitter