MAYS LANDING — An Atlantic City man on trial for murder was found guilty of the lesser charge of aggravated manslaughter Thursday morning.
Hasan Bruce, 21, claimed self-defense in the 2012 fatal shooting of aspiring rapper Zachary Taylor, who was known as Zooty Bang.
But Superior Court Judge Albert Garofolo found that, because Bruce set up the meeting with Taylor and assumed the man would bring a gun, he could not then claim self-defense.
The judge did, however, find that the killing was not planned or intentional, acquitting Bruce of conspiracy and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose.
“This event was the 21st century version of a western gunfight,” he said.
Bruce’s 23-year-old brother, Jamal Bruce, was acquitted of all charges Wednesday, after the judge determined that the fact they are related and Jamal Bruce was there at the time of the killing was not enough to link him to the crime.
“Sadly, this case graphically demonstrates the street culture that now proliferates among the youth of Atlantic City and Pleasantville,” Garofolo said. “A culture marked by posturing in social media, conveying veiled or expressed machismo, marking the territorial boundaries.
“Lines drawn with the promise of reprisal if they are crossed,” he continued. “A world where disrespect is a capital offense.”
Defense attorney Robert Gamburg said he was “pleased with the verdict.”
“We’re extremely satisfied that the judge believed that (Hasan Bruce) did not have the specific intent to kill, but that he was reckless in his belief that Zooty was about to kill him,” he said. “This was one of the reasons why we chose to proceed with a bench trial: to take emotion out of the mix. The judge, in my view, properly applied the facts to the law.”
Bruce faces 10 to 30 years on the aggravated manslaughter charge, as opposed to the 30 years to life a murder conviction carries. He also was found guilty of possession of a weapon without a permit.
The court is trying to set the sentencing for next Friday, since it is Garofolo’s last day on the bench. It was not immediately clear if a pre-sentencing report could be completed by that time.
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