Shaheed Brown rejects plea deal for murder charges, will head to trial

The murder case against a Trenton man accused of fatally

Prosecutors say this surveillance photo shows Shaheed Brown (left) and Enrico Smalley Jr. minutes before Smalley was gunned down outside of La Guira Bar on July 12, 2014.

Prosecutors say this surveillance photo shows Shaheed Brown (left) and Enrico Smalley Jr. minutes before Smalley was gunned down outside of La Guira Bar on July 12, 2014.

shooting Enrico Smalley Jr. outside a violence-riddled city bar last year is headed for trial.

Shaheed Brown, 30, who is accused of gunning down Smalley outside of La Guira Bar in July 2014, said he was “absolutely” rejecting prosecutors’ final plea offer of 45 years for murder.

A repeat offender with convictions for aggravated assault and aggravated arson, Brown was advised by Judge Robert Billmeier that he could be sentenced to up to 75 years in prison if he is found guilty by a jury at trial. He responded firmly that he understood.

The judge did not set a date for trial, which is expected to last up to four weeks. Billmeier said he would have to find a lull in his schedule, which is jam-packed with murder trials.

Billmeier recently presided over the murder trial of Keith Wells-Holmes, who was acquitted earlier this week of murder.

The idea was floated that retired Superior Court Judge Andrew Smithson, who is still on recall, could take over Brown’s case to ease Billmeier’s load. A voir dire conference is set for July 30.

Brown’s attorney, Edward Heyburn, had previously asked the court to fast-track his client’s case for trial and asked the court Friday if it would schedule a conference between himself, Smithson and Assistant Prosecutor Brian McCauley.

Heyburn hopes the court could accommodate a trial date in August. Brown has been incarcerated on $1 million bail on numerous charges since he was arrested for Smalley’s murder in Newark in August 2014.

Brown also faces gun and drug-related charges, but prosecutors expect to drop those charges in July when a codefendant is sentenced.

A judge ordered evidence of the gun suppressed, leaving only drug charges remaining for Brown. His codefendant pleaded guilty in the drug case, admitting drugs belonged to him and exonerating Brown.

Brown’s attorney has also maintained his client’s innocence in the murder case, claiming someone other than Brown killed Smalley.

The attorney released a video to The Trentonian he claimed showed the identity of the gunman, a man known only as “King,” who appears to reach for something tucked into the left side of his waistband moments before Smalley was shot.

Heyburn said police did not attempt to interview the man in order to rule him out as a suspect.

The clip generated much public interest in the case, and a judge issued a gag order on the attorneys and sealed the court file. McCauley said release of the video discouraged a potential witness from cooperating with prosecutors.

Since then, prosecutors have said the murder weapon used to kill Smalley was linked with a separate homicide in Essex County and two shootings in Trenton.

The weapon has not been recovered, but prosecutors said shell casings at those scenes ballistically matched ones recovered from La Guira Bar, which was the scene of a second fatal shooting in December.

Authorities said Patrick Walker was gunned down outside the bar, leading officials from the Alcoholic Beverage Control to inquire about the establishment’s practices.

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