Monday, December 12, 2011
Judge to triple murderer: 'Live forever in prison'
Michael P. Mayko, Staff Writer
Updated 02:02 p.m., Monday, December 12, 2011
BRIDGEPORT -- Azikiwe Aquart, who participated in a gruesome, brutal and bloody Aug. 24, 2005 triple homicide learned his fate Monday: life in prison without the possibility of parole.
"By committing these unspeakable crimes you have forfeited your right to live in a civilized society and instead will live forever in prison," U.S. District Judge Stefan R. Underhill told the defendant in pronouncing the sentence.
Aquart, 29, had nothing to say to the judge or to the children of Tina Johnson, one of the three victims found hog-tied and mummified in duct tape. Each was beaten brutally with baseball bats inside Johnson's Charles Street apartment on that muggy August morning.
Instead, Aquart sat silent, often leaning back in his chair at the defense table. His right hand covering what family members perceived as a constant smile on his face.
"He was smiling and laughing," said Latavia Whittingham, one of Tina's daughters. "He's going to spend the rest of his life in prison while my mother's spirit lives on through us and her grandkids. He may have killed her, but he could not take her spirit down."
Unlike his brother, Azikiwe Aquart avoided the death penalty by pleading guilty to the murder of James Reid, Johnson's boyfriend. He also admitted participating in the murders of Johnson and Basil Williams, a family friend.
Back in June, Azibo "Dreddy" Aquart, the reputed head of crack cocaine trafficking ring operating out of the Charles Street apartment complex was sentenced to death by a federal court jury. It marked the first such death penalty imposed in modern day Connecticut.
However, he is challenging it.
A third man, Efrain Johnson, rejected a plea-bargained deal and is expected to go to trial in February. John Taylor, a fourth participant, turned government witness and testified at Azibo Aquart's trial. He is awaiting sentencing for murder.
The murders stemmed from a dispute between Azibo Aquart and Tina Johnson over her dabbling in crack sales on his turf.
But Assistant U.S. Attorney Tracy Dayton said it was not "a war...it was a slaughter."
The four men broke into Johnson's apartment early in the morning and bound the three victims with duct tape. They were then repeatedly beaten with baseball bats.
During the trial, she said blood spattered and dripped from "every wall...and the floor to the ceiling."
The prosecutor further said "there were so many layers of duct tape" covering the victims "that it was difficult to pull off."
During Monday's sentencing, Dayton read a letter from Mary Reid, James' mother.
"I never thought that I would bury one of my children," the woman wrote, "especially one who would be slaughtered for being in the wrong place at the wrong time...I will never share another dinner, holiday or special occasion with him...You took my son and left an emptiness inside me that can never be filled by anyone else."
Reid wrote that if she was in court Monday, she would look Aquart in the face and say "Vengeance is mine sayest the Lord and I am going to let God have vengeance on you."
David Stern, one of Azikiwe's lawyers, convinced Underhill to recommend the federal penitentiary in Atlanta as his client's home because his nephew and another brother live there.
Additionally, Stern said Azikiwe Aquart is a trained cook, having graduated from culinary school, and could give back to society by helping prepare meals for his fellow inmates.
Outside the courtroom, Jahmar Whittingham, Johnson's son, said he believes the sentence sets "a good example for what will happen to people who do wrong...and kill people for no reason at all."