MAYS LANDING — Three Camden men accused of abducting a couple from an Atlantic City casino garage and killing one did not plan the attack, an attorney for one said Friday.
Raheem Simmons, 19, was in court in an attempt to have a dozen charges against him dropped in the case.
Superior Court Judge Bernard DeLury denied the motion, saying the burden was on the defense, and that enough had been presented to the grand jurors to have them indict all three men on the charges.
“There was no agreement made between any of these defendants to commit any crime,” defense attorney John Bjorklund told DeLury before that decision was made.
Simmons, along with Phillip Byrd and Eric Darden, are accused of forcing Sunil Rattu and Radha Ghetia to drive from the Trump Taj Mahal parking garage Sept. 18, 2011, and then shooting the two in an alley off Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
Rattu, 28, was killed; Ghetia, 24, was wounded.
Ghetia’s testimony presented before the grand jury indicated “none of the defendants knew what the other wanted to do,” Bjorklund told the judge.
Darden has admitted to his part in the fatal attack, and named Byrd as the shooter. In a videotaped statement Byrd gave to investigators at the time of his arrest, however, he said it was Darden who shot the couple.
Simmons, meanwhile, was just trying to get a ride to the bus station, his attorney told the judge Friday.
“What we have here is presence at the scene,” Bjorklund said of his client.
But DeLury said the state’s evidence seems to indicate “Mr. Simmons was more than just an innocent bystander in these activities.”
In fact, there is a witness who told investigators that earlier Sept. 18, 2011, the three were “stalking through a different garage looking for different prey,” Chief Assistant Prosecutor John Maher told the judge.
After DeLury denied the motion to dismiss the charges — including three counts of felony murder — there was an indication the case could be wrapped up by next month.
Bjorklund asked that Simmons be given a return date of March 14, the day after the date co-defendant Byrd has been given as a deadline to either accept a plea agreement or go to trial.
Byrd, 21, has been offered a 47-year term that would require he serve about 40 years before he is eligible for parole. Simmons’ offer is 30 years with no parole.
“If Mr. Byrd elects to plead, I know that will absolutely impact whether we dispose of this case or not,” Bjorklund told the judge.
Byrd and Simmons also are implicated as partners in another deadly crime.
The two 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.
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