Newburgh Murder Sentence Called ‘Mind-Boggling’

     MANHATTAN (CN) – A federal judge flinched before imposing a life sentence on a young man from the reputed “Murder Capital of New York” for a crime he committed as a teenager, the ambivalent transcript shows.
     Even the defense attorney for Newburgh resident George Squire, who had turned 20 before his sentencing last year, noted that he did not “envy this court” for its task.
     Squire confessed to the felony murder in the botched mugging of Tomas Almodovar, a father of three. Prosecutors agreed that the gun accidentally went off during the crime, and probation recommended a 30-year sentence.
     Almodovar’s family came to court to demand a heavier punishment.
     U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas heard the pleas of a widow, an uncle and a father with 27 years of service with New York’s Department of Corrections.
     Before imposing the sentence, Karas remarked that a “sentence along the lines the government is suggesting, life imprisonment, to impose that on a 20-year-old is just mind-boggling.”
     The federal prison system carries no possibility of parole.
     “And it’s the trap of the system that we’re in as I said,” Karas added.
     On Monday, Squire’s attorney Peter Quijano quoted that remark at the beginning of his arguments before the 2nd Circuit for a sentence reduction.
     The “trap,” as Karas saw it, was that a 20-year sentence that the defense requested would let Squire leave prison to possibly kill again, and that a life sentence offered no second chances.
     Quijano argued that this logic punished his client for his youth, instead of treating him as too immature to appreciate the consequences of his actions.
     “The District Court considered his age as an aggravation,” Quijano said. “He called that a sentencing trap, which is mind-boggling.”
     Echoing an argument he made last year, Quijano also noted that Squire would have landed in state court if the offense happened 14 months earlier.
     Assistant U.S. Attorney Parvin Moyne that the “cold-blooded and ruthless crime” got the sentence it deserved.
     “Here, we have someone who committed the ultimate crime, who committed murder, for no reason,” she said.
     Squire was not a gang member and the murder was not drug-related.
     Moyne noted that Squire had built up a “considerable criminal history,” however, and was caught hopping a lower Manhattan turnstile with a loaded firearm and a bulletproof vest less than two months later.
     After the killing, Squire showed an informant a news article reporting that the victim was a father of three.
     “I did some bullshit this weekend,” Squire told the informant in a taped conversation, Quijano said.
     The government called this boasting, and Judge Karas agreed.
     “He bragged about the fact that the victim was a father,” he said, according to the transcript. “He bragged about how the victim reacted to being shot and then ultimately dying. And that’s really disturbing.”
     Quijano disputed that account for the first time during the appeal.
     “There was no bragging,” he said.
     Judge Rosemary Pooler pointed out that he did not object to the description.
     Visibly emotional, Quijano replied, “I didn’t, and God do I regret that now.”
     Much of the arguments surrounding Squire’s appeal had to do with his home city of Newburgh, dubbed the state’s “murder capital” in a New York Magazine profile of FBI agent James Gagliano.
     By the standards of that Orange County city, Squire’s case is “not the worst of the worst,” Quijano said.
     “[Karas] treated this felony murder like it was an intentional murder,” he said.
     The attorney pointed out that U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon, a colleague of Karas’ in the Southern District of New York, cited Newburgh’s rampant crime and economic depression in issuing a much shorter term to Taylor “Little A” Fields.
     Like Squire, Fields was sentenced for murder as a 20-year-old.
     Fields admitted that he intentionally killed his victim, and he received only a 20-year sentence, Quijano added.
     McMahon “knows Newburgh more than anyone else,” the attorney said.
     The same judge handled the case of the so-called Newburgh Four, who were convicted of trying to blow up a Bronx synagogue and Stewart Air Force Base. The case drew controversy because an FBI informant offered impoverished felons $250,000 to agree to the plot.
     Although the jury rejected the men’s entrapment defense, McMahon blasted the government for “trolling among the citizens of a troubled community,” in a scorching opinion upholding the convictions.
     Judge Raymond Lohier, a member of the three-person panel hearing Squire’s appeal, noted that the disparity between Squire’s sentence and those of similar murder cases will be taken into account.
     U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni, sitting by designation from the Southern District, rounded out the appellate panel. They did not reach a decision by the end of the hearing.

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