Trenton man charged with murder pleads guilty to parole violation, hopes it will help spring him from jail
A Trenton man caught up in the 2013 murder of city graffiti artist Andre Corbett pleaded guilty to an unrelated probation violation Wednesday, hoping it would pave the way for him to be released from jail on bail while he awaits trial for murder.
Zihqwan “Woodiey” Clemens is the lone remaining codefendant of two men charged in connection with Corbett’s broad daylight slaying outside of an apartment complex on Hoffman Avenue and Oakland Street in January 2013. The suspected killer, Keith Wells-Holmes, was acquitted by a jury this year.
But prosecutors have said they intend to move forward with their case against Clemens, the alleged getaway driver. Clemens’ attorney, Andrew Duclair, said he does not understand prosecutors’ decision not to move forward with the case against his client because there is no evidence of a conspiracy between the men to kill Corbett.
Duclair has said his client, who implicated Wells-Holmes for the murder when he was interviewed by authorities, had no knowledge the murder was going down. It has been hinted that Assistant Prosecutor James Scott is trying Clemens because he was not pleased with the way he testified in Wells-Holmes’ murder trial.
Clemens got on the stand and exonerated Wells-Holmes. Prosecutors contend Clemens lied on the stand but have not said whether they will pursue perjury charges.
On Wednesday, Clemens pleaded guilty to a probation violation relating to an underlying drug distribution conviction. He had been sentenced by a judge in June 2012 to probation, which included meeting with his probation officer and paying monthly fines.
Clemens admitted he missed some payments and some meetings, leading to the violation. He pleaded guilty to the offense hoping Judge Robert Billmeier will grant him time served when he is sentenced in January.
The judge has already reduced Clemens’ bail to $250,000 from $1 million in the murder case. But while it is unclear if Clemens can afford to post the bail, he cannot get out of jail until the probation violation is dealt with since he is not constitutionally entitled to bail on a VOP.
Scott said he plans to introduce evidence of text messages and a picture of a handgun that authorities discovered on Clemens’ phone he says shows the Trenton man was still involved in drug dealing even while he was on probation.
Clemens has been in jail for more than two years, awaiting trial on the murder charges. He was arrested in 2013, within days of Corbett’s death, and is hoping the judge opts for a time-served sentence rather than the maximum penalty of five years in state prison.