Second plea offer rejected in Groton manslaughter case

The state has offered a more attractive plea deal to Dirren Conyers, who is accused of fatally stabbing Jose Cartagena during a melee in Groton in April 2008.

Conyers, 34, rejected the offer, which involved a 10-year prison sentence for second-degree manslaughter and first-degree unlawful restraint, and informed a New London judge that he wants a trial. Had he accepted the offer, his attorney, Tina Sypek D'Amato of Bridgeport, would have had the opportunity, at sentencing, to argue for a shorter prison term.

Conyers, who is free on a $250,000 bond, had previously rejected an offer to plead guilty to first-degree manslaughter and unlawful restraint. That offer would have involved a sentence of 20 years in prison, suspended after 15 years served and five years' probation.

According to court documents, Cartagena, 36, died April 13, 2008, after becoming entangled with a group of people who had gathered outside a house on Miami Court after closing time at Sully's Cafe, a local bar. At one point, seven or eight people were kicking and punching him as he lay on the ground, according to a witness.

Conyers is accused of placing Cartagena in a choke hold until he stopped breathing. Police also charged a second man, James D. Smith, with unlawful restraint, third-degree assault and second-degree breach of peace. Smith's case is pending.

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