A Farmingdale man who had faced a murder charge in the shooting death of a college student was sentenced Friday to 5 years in prison after the murder charge was dismissed due to prosecutorial misconduct.
Suffolk police and prosecutors had said Messiah Booker, 32, was part of a group that orchestrated a home invasion burglary on Jan. 27, 2013, looking for drug dealing money. During the commission of that burglary, Demitri Hampton, 21, of Flanders, who was staying at the house on Priscilla Avenue in Flanders, was shot and killed.
Booker was arrested on Nov. 17, 2015 and one of the charges was second-degree murder. If he had been convicted of murder, Booker would have faced up to 25 years to life in prison.
At his sentencing in Suffolk County Court in Riverhead on Friday, Hampton’s mother, Juanita Trent, 57, told state Supreme Court Justice John B. Collins that her trust in the criminal justice system has been shattered.
“This is not justice nor will we ever get justice for our loved one,” she said.
The judge apologized to Trent and her family, saying what happened was a “travesty.”
The murder charge against Booker was dismissed midtrial on May 9, after his attorney, Brendan Ahern of Hauppauge, methodically detailed dozens of instances in which Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Glenn Kurtzrock hid evidence from the defense, including information that at least two other men might have been responsible for the killing.
The law, known as the Brady Rule, requires prosecutors to disclose materially exculpatory evidence in the government’s possession to the defense.
Kurtzrock’s conduct was so egregious that Collins said the likelihood of conviction would “be severely diminished” after sanctions were imposed against the prosecution.
Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota immediately pulled Kurtzrock off the case and demanded — and received — his resignation.
Kurtzrock’s supervisor, Homicide Bureau Chief Janet Albertson, replaced him, and a deal was struck. Booker pleaded guilty to second-degree attempted burglary. In exchange for his guilty plea, Booker got 5 years in prison and 5 years post-release supervision.
Booker’s attorney said his client didn’t do it.
Four people who were in the house at the time of the shooting all said there were only two men in ski masks, not three as the prosecution claimed, Ahern said. One witness said she overhead one of the suspects called the other “Jayshawn”, who Ahern said the prosecution has not identified.
Corry Wallace, 41, who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in April, and the mystery man named “Jayshawn” add up to the two culprits, Ahern said.
A review of all the cases Kurtzrock prosecuted during the time he was working in the Suffolk district attorney’s office is ongoing, Spota’s spokesman, Robert Clifford, said Friday.
Kurtzrock did not return calls seeking comments.
In recent years, Suffolk has had a flurry of cases in which prosecutors were accused of hiding evidence. They include the reversal of Gabriel Hubbard’s 2011 murder conviction, sanctions against the chief of the Homicide Bureau in the Dante Taylor case for the withholding and destruction of evidence, findings of withheld material in the 2009 Rudolph Bisnauth case and withheld and destroyed evidence in the ongoing trial of John Bittrolff.
“It is my solemn belief that this case can still stand for something good, and something just, if it stands for a fundamental change, to allow the accused full access to all the evidence both for and against them,” said Ahern.