Cosmo Frieson, who plotted a robbery with Gary L. Clarke and supplied Clarke with the gun that killed New London package store owner Jared Silva five years ago, was sentenced Friday in New London Superior Court to 14 years in prison.
The 24-year-old Frieson, a tall, slim man who was just 19 when he took part in the botched robbery, received a reduced prison term because he had cooperated in Clarke’s prosecution. Clarke is serving a 25-year sentence.
Standing before Judge Patrick J. Clifford, Frieson turned to Silva’s family and read them a statement in which he asked for forgiveness. Frieson said he lies awake most nights thinking about how it must feel “losing a loved one at the hands of some kids.”
“It might sound selfish, but I can’t forgive myself or move on without the forgiveness of you, Jared’s loved ones,” he said.
Silva, 47, was the well-regarded owner of Jared’s Packy at Ocean Avenue and Squire Street. The community was shocked and outraged when he was gunned down Oct. 12, 2007, as he left the store at closing time. According to testimony, Silva struggled when Clarke approached him. Frieson punched Silva and knocked him to the ground.
Silva stood up, and Clarke fatally shot Silva in the face during the scuffle that ensued.
Silva’s mother, Dorothy “Dot” Silva, and his sister, Nancy Donovan, did not immediately respond to Frieson’s plea for forgiveness, but Silva later asked an official to convey her appreciation to him. Both the mother and sister had asked the judge to impose the full 20-year sentence Frieson was facing.
“This is not about vengeance,” Donovan said. “We’ve always wanted just to understand what happened that night. We wanted the participants to take responsibility.”
Silva’s family said they understood the need for the court to plea-bargain with Frieson but said he was an active participant in Silva’s death.
Frieson turned himself in to police following the crime, then signed a cooperation agreement with the state’s attorney’s office. Frieson confessed that he had stolen the handgun from an unlocked car days earlier and that he and Clarke were looking to acquire some fast money because Frieson’s sister, who was Clarke’s girlfriend, was about to be evicted from her apartment.
Clarke, 25, was sentenced in August to 25 years in prison for manslaughter with a firearm.
Frieson testified at Clarke’s first trial in January 2011, but the proceeding ended with a mistrial because the jury could not reach a unanimous verdict. Frieson was “ready, willing and able” to testify at Clarke’s retrial in May 2012, according to State’s Attorney Michael L. Regan, but Clarke accepted the state’s offer to plead guilty to a lesser charge after the first day of testimony. Regan said he made the offer based on weaknesses in the state’s case, including witnesses with credibility problems.
The state could not have prosecuted Clarke without Frieson’s help, Regan said.
In arguing for a reduced sentence, Frieson’s attorney, Sebastian O. DeSantis, said that Frieson, the son of a drug-addicted mother, had been moved from foster home to foster home during his youth and was physically and mentally abused. DeSantis said it was not an excuse, but that it helped to explain how Frieson became a participant in Silva’s death.
“You can’t get around the fact that it truly is a horrible and senseless crime,” DeSantis said. “Gary Clarke shot Mr. Silva, really, for no reason at all.”
Judge Clifford said that in his opinion, both Clarke and Frieson deserved harsher punishment, but the case illustrates the uncertainty of the criminal justice system.
“In a perfect world, for a crime like this, Mr. Clarke should receive 50 to 60 years, and you should receive more than I am going to give you,” Clifford told Frieson. “But the realities are ... people who cooperate must, to encourage others to cooperate, receive less than they should.”
Frieson will be on special parole, a strict form of state supervision, for six years after his release from prison.
Silva’s family had been supported by members of the Survivors of Homicide support group while the case was pending. The group’s leader, attorney Chester Fairlie, noted that the case had been pending for five years, and said it seemed unfortunate that Frieson had not apologized sooner.
Also apologizing to the Silva family Friday was Arthur Ladson, Frieson’s great-uncle.
“I’m here to support Cosmo and to give my strong feeling of regrets for what happened that night,” he said.