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    Sunday, May 19, 2024

    Citing ‘level of depravity,’ judge refuses to reduce 85-year sentence for New London killer

    Saying the crime stood out for its “level of gratuitous violence,” New London Superior Court Judge John M. Newson on Monday rejected a request for a sentence reduction by Gregory Pierre, one of the three men convicted in the 1998 murder of James Connor of Essex.

    “In the present case, based on the totality of the evidence before the court, the level of depravity involved here far outweighs the improvements the defendant has made since being sentenced,” Newson said in a seven-page written decision released on Monday.

    Pierre, 50, who had already unsuccessfully appealed his sentence, appeared with supporters in New London Superior Court on Wednesday to make a plea to Newson to cut short his 85-year prison sentence for felony murder, manslaughter, kidnapping and robbery. Pierre has been in prison since 1999 and was convicted at trial in 2001.

    On Aug. 22, 1998 Connor, a 33-year-old yacht captain, traveled to Lucky’s Cafe in New London looking to buy crack cocaine. Pierre and the two other men convicted in Connor’s murder, Abin Britton and Jeffrey Smith, connected and later met at Pierre’s apartment on Michael Road to complete the purchase.

    Prosecutors said the plan by Pierre, Britton and Smith was to rob Connor. While Pierre was inside his apartment, prosecutors said Britton and Smith beat Connor. The three men then used Connor’s car to drive Connor to Bates Woods in New London where the three beat him again and robbed him of $90 and a Rolex watch. Britton, court records show, later bragged about taking a metal pole from the trunk of the car, forcing it down Connor’s throat and snapping his neck.

    The three men dragged Connor’s body into Bates Woods, covered him with a tarp and some other debris, and left in Connor’s car. Connor’s car was later found in a pond near the Stop & Shop in Waterford. Connor’s body was discovered about four months after the crime.

    In considering a sentence modification, Newson said he weighed factors such as Pierre’s age at the time of the crime, the gravity of the crime, his correctional record and length of time served and whether he “has demonstrated substantial rehabilitation.”

    “The gravity of the crime here stands out for the level of gratuitous violence the defendants brought to bear on the victim,“ Newson wrote in his decision. ”Despite beating the victim helpless, when they could simply have taken his belongings and left, they chose to move the incapacitated victim to a second location to beat him again.“

    Newson said Britton’s actions with the metal pole “would be considered shocking in the most grotesque of B-rated cult horror films.”

    “The overall depravity of the crime, in a court that deals daily with the highest level of depravity New London County has to offer, stands alone,” Newson wrote.

    Newson credited Pierre for showing remorse and bettering himself while incarcerated, completing prison programs and working as a youth mentor. But Newson said Pierre also continues to deny direct involvement in in Connor’s death and disposal of the body.

    “There is no ‘good cause,’ to grant the defendant a modification of his sentence,” Newson wrote.

    g.smith@theday.com

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