One of two Trenton murder suspects rejects plea deal after other pleads guilty
One of two men charged with murder in the slaying of the son of a veteran city cop rejected prosecutors’ final plea offer of 10 years and will put his fate in the hands of a jury.
Raheem Currie, 22, who is free on $50,000 bail, rejected prosecutors’ final plea offer Monday calling for him to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit murder in the shooting death of James Austin, the son of retired Trenton Police Sgt. Luddie Austin.
Currie faces a minimum of 30 years in prison for murder if he is convicted by a jury at trial.
Superior Court Judge Robert Billmeier, who has not set a trial date, asked the defendant if he understood that now that he rejected the plea offer, it was off the table and he would have to plead open to first-degree murder, upping his maximum exposure time to 75 years, if he changes his mind about a jury trial.
He would have to serve roughly 64 years before he would be eligible for parole.
“Yes, your honor,” Currie said.
Currie made the decision knowing that his co-defendant, Robert Bartley, who confessed to fatally shooting Austin on Feb. 26, 2013, in the doorway of his home, has pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter for 25 years and is cooperating with prosecutors.
Bartley has not been sentenced because he is expected to take the stand and testify against Currie at trial, Assistant Prosecutor Lewis Korngut said.
The defendants planned to spray Austin’s East State Street home with bullets following an ongoing dispute between Austin and Currie which escalated when Austin broke Currie’s windshield, prosecutors have said. Bartley admitted shooting Austin in the chest.
Billmeier refused to dismiss charges against Currie after his attorney filed court papers asking the court to toss out the indictment. Currie is expected to return to court in October for a pretrial conference.