Trenton man charged in shooting death of city cop’s son goes on trial this week
The parents of murder victim James Austin share the same birthday – July 13.
They will be in a courtroom that day, when a city man goes on trial for his role in the February 2013 death of their 18-year-old son.
“It’s like an early birthday present,” said Luddie Austin, James’ father and a retired Trenton cop.
Luddie, who turns 47 on Wednesday, and Austin’s mother, Yvonne, have waited more than three years for Raheem Currie to have his day in court.
Jury selection begins Tuesday, after Currie rejected prosecutors’ final plea offer of 10 years for acting as an accomplice to Robert Bartley.
Bartley admitted fatally shooting James Austin following a dispute between Currie and Austin. It escalated after the men smashed each other’s windshields, prosecutors said.
Bartley has accepted a 25-year plea offer for aggravated manslaughter and will testify against Currie.
Currie is accused of calling Bartley and driving him over to James Austin’s home to settle the “ongoing beef.”
Luddie Austin, who is known for his appearances on the A&E reality show “Manhunters: Fugitive Task Force,” was present in court for a final hearing Monday before Judge Pedro Jimenez, prior to the start of trial.
While the former Trenton cop expects the trial will be emotionally taxing, he and other family members will attend it for the duration.
“We have to relive this tragic event that had a negative effect on our family,” he said. “We’re looking at it as a blessing in disguise because we have been asking for justice for our son since this happened.”
After a life of public service, Luddie Austin has said his faith in the judicial system waivered as he came to grips with his son’s death. He remained resolute because of the support from the community and family members.
“Things like that have helped keep my head above water,” he said.
Still nothing can bring back James Austin, who was gunned down shortly after his 18th birthday. He left behind twin daughters.
“Each day that goes by, I still hurt,” Luddie Austin said. “Since that day, there has been a void. I don’t think that void can ever be filled. There’s a part of me that is gone forever.”
The former Trenton cop said he has faith in Assistant Prosecutor James Scott, who took over the case from retired prosecutor Lewis Korngut.
Luddie Austin said he has blocked out media coverage of his son’s case and other Trenton murder trials that ended with hung juries. But he admitted the thought of Currie being acquitted is hard to ignore.
“I’m a little nervous,” he said. “We don’t know what to expect, but we’re praying for the best.”