Trenton homicide suspect rejected plea deal that could have freed him
TRENTON >> Prosecutors had offered a Trenton man charged with murder a plea deal that would have led to murder charges being dropped if he agreed to cooperate and testify against his co-defendant, The Trentonian has learned.
The deal undermines Assistant Prosecutor Brian McCauley’s previous assertion after a status hearing earlier this year that Daniel McCargo, 28, is “equally culpable” for the fatal shooting death of 24-year-old Jahmir Hall.
McCauley confirmed such a deal was “floated” to McCargo, who was indicted as an accomplice on counts of first-degree murder, second-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, second-degree unlawful possession of a weapon and second-degree certain persons not to possess a firearm.
Curtis Grier, 28, who was also indicted on murder charges but remains free on $300,000 bail, is believed to be the alleged gunman, prosecutors have said. Both men have subsequently been offered plea bargains calling for 30-year sentences for murder. They face the possibility of life in prison if they take their case to trial and are convicted by a jury.
Sources told The Trentonian prosecutors would have dropped all charges against McCargo if he had agreed to testify against Grier.
McCauley disputed that, saying any deal would have required McCargo to plead guilty to a lesser crime such as a weapons offense. McCauley said Hall’s family was never consulted about the offer because it never got that far. McCargo, who is incarcerated on $300,000 cash-only bail while his codefendant walks the streets, outright rejected the overture.
“That’s not in the cards anymore,” McCauley said. “He’s not willing to cooperate, so it’s a moot point.”
Both men – one shackled in orange prison garb, the other in a short-sleeve button-down shirt and dark pants — appeared in court Friday with their attorneys for a hearing on a dismissal motion. Grier is represented by Trenton defense attorney Robin Lord; McCargo, who was previously represented by attorney Robert Rogers, is defended by Maleika Montgomery of the Office of the Public Defender in Mercer County.
Montgomery previously said it was an “injustice” Grier remains free while her client is locked up. She filed a motion this week asking for bail reconsideration for her client. A hearing is set for April 21 before Judge Robert Billmeier.
Montgomery joined Lord’s request for the murder indictment to be dismissed despite apparent fissures between the codefendants, who were seated within feet of each other but did not appear to speak or glance at one another. Billmeier heard arguments from both sides but reserved decision and will likely offer a written opinion on the motion in the future.
Lord said the grand jury panel that indicted her client was charged on the law for murder seven weeks before it handed up its indictment. She said too much time had elapsed for grand jurors to remember necesary elements of the law required for murder.
“We’re not talking about indicting Mr. Grier for spitting on a sidewalk,” she said. “We’re talking about indicting him for a serious charge.”
Lord criticized what she believes is the state’s “lackadaisical” approach to securing indictments. Lord used as an example Judge Gerald Council’s remarks about sexual assault cases to grand jurors last year.
Billmeier said a sexual assault case in question as a result of Council’s comments had nothing to do with the murder case.
McCargo was seen with Grier shortly after the April 19, 2014 early-morning shooting on Quinton Avenue, authorities said. Police responded to a report of shots fired and found Hall lying partially under a pickup truck. He was taken to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead a short time later.
Witnesses told police they saw two men flee in a black Mercedes Benz. Grier and McCargo were spotted a short time later in a vehicle matching the description. Police said McCargo attempted to hide a black handgun. The handgun was not the same one used in the murder, which is backed by ballistics results.
Attorneys mentioned a bar video at the hearing but it’s unclear how the footage relates to Hall’s death.
Prosecutors have pointed to McCargo’s prior criminal record, which court records show includes convictions for narcotics sand weapons offenses, to justify his cash-only bail requirement. Grier did not have the same cash-only requirement because he lacked a prior criminal record, prosecutors have said.
Both men are due back in court in June for a status hearing.