After speaking further with his family and his attorney, Marquis Singleton, who took part in the random and fatal attack on Matthew Chew in New London two years ago with five other teens, had a change of heart Thursday and decided to plead guilty to a reduced charge of first-degree manslaughter.
Last Friday, Singleton, the remaining defendant to resolve his case, had rejected the state's offer. At that time, New London Superior Court Judge Susan B. Handy questioned if he understood how rejecting the deal could affect the amount of time he spends behind bars.
Singleton was originally charged with murder and faced up to 60 years in prison. He will now be sentenced to 16 years in prison, suspended after eight years served, followed by five years probation. He pleaded guilty under the Alford Doctrine, which means that he doesn't agree with all the state's evidence but has decided to resolve the case rather than risk a conviction at trial and face a harsher sentence.
The court has set a tentative sentencing date of March 7. Handy has been telling all of the defendants that she will schedule their sentences for sequential days in February or March so that Chew's parents, who live in California, can attend the proceedings.
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.
Chew, 25, a well-liked artist, disc jockey and pizza cook, was fatally stabbed with a knife on Oct. 29, 2010, as he walked home from his job at 2Wives Brick Oven Pizza.
Carney said that it was alleged that Singleton had a box cutter during the attack. Singleton disputed that claim and his attorney, Joseph Elder, said Elahi had fabricated the story to put the blame on Singleton. Elder said that Chew was killed by a knife.
Handy then reminded Elder that his client had pleaded guilty under the Alford Doctrine precisely because he didn't agree with all of the state's facts.
Carney said Chew's parents did not endorse the plea deal but were aware of it.
Handy allowed Singleton's mother to hug him but said she would not allow it at sentencing since Chew's parents are no longer able to hug him.
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.
During a probable cause hearing for Elahi, Singleton testified that he participated in the assault.
The group headed downtown in search of a victim. The teens spotted Chew and then split up "in case he tried to run" when they attacked him, Singleton testified. Matias Perry asked Chew if he had a lighter and then hit him on the left side of the face when Chew reached into his pocket. Singleton said he then hit Chew on the right side of the face. Then the rest of the teens joined in on the attack.
Singleton testified that he went home and started crying because "somebody got hurt." He said he was unaware that Chew had died until Matias Perry called him the next morning and said, "We caught a body."
Two nights later, on Halloween, the six defendants went trick-or-treating together on Montauk Avenue and talked about not saying anything about the attack, according to Singleton.