MAYS LANDING — A verbal altercation that turned deadly at an Atlantic City business three years ago is another example of the “Wild West mentality” on the resort’s streets, a judge said before sentencing two men involved in the killing.
Troy James, 31, of Newark, was found shot in the abdomen at Boston Chicken at about midnight Feb. 27, 2010. Video surveillance showed an altercation between him and Sean Jacobs, Superior Court Judge Michael Donio said as he detailed the case.
Outside the eatery, Jacobs and friend Kenneth Brown returned to their car. Brown then pulled a handgun and shot James “at point-blank range,” Donio said.
The Atlantic City residents were arrested later leaving the Knights Inn Hotel in Absecon, where police also seized four handguns, including a .40-caliber Smith and Wesson tied to the killing.
“What happened was a very spontaneous event,” Brown told the victim’s family. “I hope this brings some closure to everyone.”
Brown, 22, was sentenced to 22 years in prison under a plea agreement that will require he serve 85 percent of that term. With credit for 883 days, he likely will be free by the time he’s 39 years old.
Jacobs, 27, who was driving the car seen in the video, pleaded guilty to only a second-degree charge of possession of heroin with intent to distribute. He was sentenced to six years in prison, with a minimum of three years — for which he already has credit.
It was unclear when he would be released. That would be for the prison system to determine, Assistant Prosecutor Janet Gravitz said in court.
Jacobs’ attorney, Robert Gamburg, told Donio that his client was instrumental in getting the case resolved before trial. He stressed that Jacobs did not cooperate with investigators, but did explain to Brown what the consequences could be if he didn’t plead.
“So Mr. Jacobs spoke to Mr. Brown and explained that a jury easily could find him guilty of murder and he could serve the rest of his life in prison?” Donio asked, as Gamburg nodded. “I can understand that.”
“So, he tried to talk some sense into his younger colleague?” the judge asked.
“Absolutely,” Gamburg replied.
Jacobs told Donio he took the deal to help Brown avoid trial, saying the proofs showed he was not culpable in the crime.
But Donio noted that Jacobs was charged with conspiracy to commit murder, which means a jury could have convicted him of that just by what is on the videotape.
While Donio said it was good Jacobs counseled his friend, it would have been better if, that night, he had told Brown: “Let’s get out of here.”
Jacobs insisted he had no time to stop the incident or know it was going to happen.
“I would like to send my sympathies to the family,” Jacobs said.
Donio started sentencing Jacobs to seven years, in accordance with the plea agreement, but Jacobs began to speak out against it and Gamburg quickly asked for a sidebar with the judge and Gravitz. Then a recess was called in the case.
When Jacobs was brought back into court, Gamburg explained that Judge Bernard DeLury, who had the case for most of its three years, had agreed to the six-year maximum. Donio, who confirmed that with the other judge, then agreed. The three-year minimum does not change.
As part of his plea agreement, Jacobs waived his right to appeal the sentencing. Brown has 45 days to appeal through his attorney, Bonnie Putterman.
Donio said this case once again illustrates the “Wild West” mentality among youth in Atlantic City.
“As I’ve said before, it’s got to stop,” the judge said. “But it will be dealt with, one case at a time.”
Both men have extensive criminal records dating to when they were juveniles.
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