A Nassau judge Wednesday punished a convicted murderer with 17 years to life behind bars, the exact sentence he was serving for a Freeport slaying before jury misconduct sparked a retrial.
Acting State Supreme Court Justice Patricia Harrington said she didn’t believe it would be right to punish Jerod Plowden, 31, of Queens, for exercising the right to appeal his first conviction.
A jury in October found Plowden guilty of murder and robbery in the April 2011 shooting outside an abandoned Freeport house that ended the life of Nassau Community College student Moez Hassan, 23, of Queens.
Nassau prosecutors had alleged Plowden and accomplice Nolan Gaugler lured the victim to the area under the pretense of buying Xanax pills from him before the robbery plan “turned into a horrible shooting and a killing.”
Gaugler, 27, of Mineola, pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery and was sentenced to 16 years in prison.
He testified against Plowden at both trials and is serving his sentence after signing a cooperation agreement with prosecutors in exchange for a lighter sentence.
The guilty verdict in October followed Plowden’s first conviction in 2013, an outcome an appellate court found “was not against the weight of the evidence” but tossed because of juror actions.
The appellate court found one juror “improperly shared the views of her husband,” a retired prosecutor. Another juror texted her uncle, a retired police officer, and asked a question about ballistics before sharing his answer with other jurors.
Former Acting State Supreme Court Justice Jerald Carter sentenced Plowden to 17 years to life after the first trial. At the time, Harrington served as Carter’s principal law clerk.
Prosecutor Jessica Cepriano, who prosecuted Plowden both times, asked Wednesday for the top sentence of 25 years to life behind bars. She said she believed the facts showed he shot Hassan five times.
“This was a senseless and vicious killing. It was nothing short of an execution,” Cepriano added, saying the victim “came from a good, loving family” and had been a devoted son and dedicated brother. The victim’s younger brother was in court for the sentencing.
The judge extended condolences to the brother before he appeared to shake his head in disapproval at her decision to give Plowden less than the maximum punishment. The brother later declined to comment.
But Harrington said the verdict hadn’t proved Plowden was the shooter and the sentence had to be based upon the actions shown at trial.
Defense attorney Mitchell Barnett asked the judge to give his client the same sentence as the prior judge, saying there was a “fair chance” his client hadn’t been the shooter.
“She did the right thing,” Barnett said of the judge after court.
Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas said in a statement that prosecutors hoped the sentence brought Hassan’s family some comfort after “Plowden heartlessly shot this young man several times at point-blank-range.”