With more than 40 police officers packing the Tompkins County Courthouse to watch the proceedings, Jamel Booker, the 23-year-old man accused of shooting an Ithaca Police officer in the fall, was sentenced to 25 years in state prison Friday.
In October, Ithaca Police Officer Anthony Augustine attempted to pull over a vehicle allegedly stolen by Booker on West Hill. Instead of stopping, Booker fled on foot to a wooded area, shooting Augustine in the chest and triggering a massive manhunt, police say.
The impact of the bullet triggered a stroke in Officer Augustine that led to partial loss of peripheral vision in both eyes and long-term nerve damage in his body. In the months leading to Booker’s sentencing, police have expressed dismay that Booker, who was found guilty of seven charges on April 22, was not found guilty of the most serious charge leveled against him: attempted murder.
On Friday, the prosecution urged Judge Judith Rossiter J.D. ’86 to approve the maximum sentencing of 30 years, stressing that there was a clear intent to murder and a persistent criminal nature in Booker.
The defense objected to the characterization of Booker as having murderous intent, arguing that Booker fled and shot Augustine because he panicked.
“Mr. Booker is a young man and he was scared. He never meant for any of this to happen,” said Kristine Shaw, Booker’s defense attorney.
According to Shaw, Booker shot Augustine because black suspects have been shot by Ithaca police officers in the past, and “[Booker] thought he would be shot in the bushes.”
“Growing up in Brooklyn, you don’t know what I’ve been through,” said Booker in his last emotional appeal to the courtroom.
“I still pray for you and may God bless you,” he added, addressing Augustine.
Unswayed by Booker’s remarks, however, Rossiter responded, “You can talk all about life in Brooklyn, but your mother wanted you to get you out of that situation when you moved to Ithaca. I think you blew that opportunity.” Booker moved to Ithaca when he was 12.
Jamie Williamson, public information officer for IPD, later said that Booker’s statement that he shot Augustine in an act of self-defense was ungrounded and part of Booker’s “history of deflecting blame.”
In addition to sentencing Booker to 25 years in state prison, Rossiter ordered Booker to pay $116,000 in restitution for Augustine’s medical expenses after his release.
After his sentencing, Booker smiled as he was escorted away in handcuffs.
“It shows his true character. He has no respect for human life,” Augustine said in response.
The court adjourned with mixed feelings.
“We are disappointed that maximum sentence wasn’t handed down, but pleased that Jamel Booker is behind bars for a long time,” Williamson said. “There is one less bad guy on the streets.”
Augustine’s wife, Rhonda Bullard, said she thinks “justice was served.”
“He got what he deserved, which is good,” Bullard said.
Speaking to reporters outside of the courthouse, Augustine concurred, saying he is “not disappointed with 25 years.”
“He would have liked to see me dead. For me, it’s over; at least I can move on,” Augustine said.
Augustine acknowledged that he has talked to the D.A. about appealing to retry Booker in connection to the attempted murder charge, but declined to comment further.
Original Author: Sophie Lin