A Bloods street gang member was sentenced to 60 years in state prison Friday for ordering a 15-year-old beginner in the gang to rob and fatally shoot a man in Passaic as the victim sat in his car.
“This is a sick world we live in,” Superior Court Judge Raymond A. Reddin said in a Paterson courtroom. “It’s a sad place. And it’s deteriorating as the weeks go by.”
Donald Thomas, 24, of Passaic, was convicted in February of felony murder, robbery, possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose and transferring a weapon to a minor in ordering the death of Lateef Ojoye. Family members described Ojoye in court Friday as a wonderful brother, basketball player and father.
Reddin was required to sentence Thomas to at least 30 years but had the discretion to sentence him to as much as life in prison.
The judge lamented how the same story plays itself out repeatedly in the Passaic County Courthouse to almost mind-numbing effect: Gun violence needlessly ending the lives of young people and all but ruining the lives of those left behind.
“The killings are now escalating to the point where they are just becoming a part of the norm,” he said. “But none of us are safe. Because sometimes the bullet doesn’t always hit its intended target.”
Reddin noted he felt sorry for both the victim’s and defendant’s families alike — both attended the trial and Friday’s sentencing — as everyone faces their own brand of loss.
“My brother was really like my father,” Ahmed Ojoye said to Thomas in court. “He taught me everything I knew. What you took away from me — I hope you will never have to go through what I’m going through. My brother was a person where if you asked for a helping hand, he would give it to you. He wanted to see everyone succeed. To me, he was the only person I could confide in 100 percent.”
The state argued at trial, which began Jan. 19, that Thomas was trying to help 15-year-old gang newcomer Devante Smith move up the ladder by giving him various criminal tasks.
Thomas gave Smith a gun on July 10, 2009, and told him to go to the corner of Summer and Pine streets in Passaic about 10:45 p.m., when he would find Ojoye, a drug dealer, sitting in a car with another man, the prosecution argued.
About the Author: