Shortly before he was sentenced to 20 years in state prison for stabbing and killing a childhood friend, Jermaine Holmes turned and faced the victim's family and took responsibility for the crime.
"At the end of the day, a mother has lost a son, and a brother has lost his sibling," said Holmes, 26, facing Calvin D. Butts' mother and father, Sharon and Herman Butts, who were in the Riverhead courtroom Tuesday with other family members. Reading from a handwritten note, Holmes, of Riverhead said he accepted the full blame for stabbing Butts, 26, on May 24, 2009.
Holmes, initially charged with second-degree murder, pleaded guilty last month to a lesser charge of first-degree manslaughter, which carries a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison. Had he been convicted of the more serious charge, Holmes would have faced a maximum of 25 years to life in prison. The deal called for him to be sentenced to between 12 1/2 and 25 years.
Instead, Suffolk County Court Judge James F.X. Doyle said Holmes had confessed to the crime, sparing Butts' family from having to endure a trial.
Still, said Doyle, "a life has been needlessly lost."
Holmes and Calvin Butts grew up in Riverhead and were "best of buddies all through high school," Butts' mother had said. She and Holmes' mother used to take turns chaperoning the boys.
Yesterday, Sharon Butts had urged the judge to impose a maximum term of 25 years, noting that Holmes - unlike her son - would have time to live out the remainder of his life as a free man.
"Time is not over for him. We cannot say the same for Calvin. Time has ended for him," Sharon Butts of Riverhead said before Doyle handed down the sentence.
Susan Menu, attorney for Holmes, urged the judge to impose a sentence of 12 1/2 years, saying Holmes has a drug problem and had no history of violence until this incident. "This is an anomaly," Menu said in court.
According to Assistant District Attorney James G. Chalifoux, a fight began between Holmes' brother and Butts' brother outside the Hampton Bays Diner & Restaurant, off West Montauk Highway. Holmes came out of the diner after the melee erupted.
Within seconds, Chalifoux said, Holmes had stabbed Butts in the back five times, puncturing Butts' lung and aorta. Chalifoux said authorities recovered a black folding knife in a wooded area across from the house where Holmes' brother lived.
Holmes confessed to the stabbing but has not provided authorities with a motive, Chalifoux said. "I don't know if anybody knows," of the reason for the killing, Chalifoux said.