Admitted killer won’t take back guilty plea, to go forward with sentencing
Admitted killer Curtis Grier told a judge Wednesday he will not take back his guilty plea in the slaying of a city man after a “misunderstanding” between the judge and his defense attorney held up sentencing earlier this month.
Free on $300,000 bail, Grier pleaded guilty this year to a lesser count of reckless manslaughter, for fatally shooting 24-year-old Jahmir Hall, under a plea deal that exposed him to a maximum of 10 years in prison.
Hall was gunned down in Trenton in April 2014.
Grier’s codefendant, Daniel McCargo, pleaded guilty to a gun charge and was sentenced last month to seven years in prison.
Charged with murder as an accomplice, McCargo admitted being armed with a handgun the night Hall was shot to death, but ballistics revealed it wasn’t the handgun used in the shooting death.
Grier had been charged with murder in Hall’s slaying but pleaded guilty to the lesser charge and was supposed to be sentenced earlier this month. But it was pushed back because of apparent confusion about the terms of Grier’s plea deal.
Defense attorney Robin Lord said at Wednesday’s hearing she was left with the impression there was a “strong likelihood” Judge Peter Warshaw would send her client to prison for seven years.
Prosecutors are capped at arguing for 10 years for Grier under the deal.
Lord said the judge could also consider as few as five years, after weighing a mix of factors such as the circumstances of the slaying and Grier’s lack of a criminal record.
After meeting privately in chambers with the attorneys twice for about an hour, Warshaw explained from the bench he is not beholden to seven years and has not decided what sentence he will hand out at the rescheduled Nov. 10 sentencing.
While the defense will ask for less time, the judge told Grier he could just as easily hand down the decadelong prison term and not violate the negotiated plea deal.
Grier said he understood the terms of the deal and wanted to go forward.
The judge said he wasn’t sure why Lord believed he was going to hand down the seven-year sentence but chalked it up to an honest “miscommunication.”
Warshaw told the admitted triggerman there was “no promise of anything other than a fair sentencing hearing.”
In the coming weeks, court officials will cobble together a pre-sentencing report on Grier.
Grier plans to have a pastor and a retired police officer speak on his behalf at sentencing, Lord said.