Brian Rabell, who took part in the random and fatal attack on Matthew Chew in New London two years ago with five other teens, then cooperated in the police investigation of the case, pleaded guilty to the reduced charge of first-degree manslaughter Wednesday in New London Superior Court.
Rabell, 20, will be sentenced in February to eight years in prison followed by five years probation.
The two remaining defendants whose cases have not been resolved have received similar plea offers and are expected to plead guilty during their upcoming court appearances.
Chew, 25, a well-liked artist, disc jockey and pizza cook, was fatally stabbed on Oct. 29, 2010, as he walked home from his job at 2Wives Brick Oven Pizza.
According to prosecutor Stephen M. Carney, the six teens gathered at the home of Idris Elahi, where they decided to go out and jump somebody at random. One of the teens dared Elahi to stab the person, and when they went to bang their fists together, giving one another "dap" to seal the agreement, Rabell and Tyree Bundy told authorities they tried to break it up.
But when the teens targeted Chew on Huntington Street and surrounded him a short time later, Rabell admitted he threw a punch shortly before Elahi stabbed Chew.
Elahi, 19, pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced in May to 35 years in prison. The state then began making plea offers to the other defendants based on whether they cooperated with the police investigation and participated in a court hearing on the case.
Rahshad Perry and Matias Perry, both 19, pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter and will be sentenced to 15-year prison sentences. Rabell was the first of the cooperating defendants to accept a plea offer involving the eight-year prison sentence. Bundy, 20, and Marquis Singleton, 19, are expected to plead guilty during their court appearances on Dec. 19 and 21, respectively.
Judge Susan B. Handy has been telling all of the defendants that she will schedule their sentences for sequential days of the week in late February or March so that Chew's parents, who live in California, can attend the proceedings.
The prosecutor and Victim Advocate Beth Ann Hess have been keeping Chew's family members apprised of the plea negotiations.
"I cannot say they endorse the recommendation by the state of Connecticut, but I can say they are aware of it," Carney said after explaining Rabell's plea deal on the record Wednesday morning.
Rabell, a 2010 graduate of Ella T. Grasso Southeastern Technical High School, had been accepted into the Marines before the incident and was scheduled to report to duty in January 2011. Testifying at a probable cause hearing in the case, he admitted he was being "a follower when he should have been a leader" on that October night and issued an apology to the Chew family.
"I just want the victim and his family to know that I didn't intend on any of this to happen," he said. "I believe I did do wrong, so whatever consequences I get, I deserve."
Standing with attorney Thomas Simones as he entered his plea agreement, Rabell kept his back straight and answered "Yes, Ma'am" and "No, Ma'am'" to a series of questions to indicate he understood the proceeding.
As he was led back to the courthouse lockup, he looked over his shoulder at his family.