Thursday, April 25, 2019
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — A former Florida police officer received a 25-year prison sentence today for the fatal on-duty shooting of a black musician whose SUV had broken down after a late-night concert.
Fired Palm Beach Gardens officer Nouman Raja was the first Florida law enforcement agent in nearly 30 years to be convicted and sentenced for an on-duty killing – and one of only a few officers nationwide.
The 41-year-old defendant was sentenced by Circuit Judge Joseph Marx as family and friends of the 31-year-old victim, Corey Jones, looked on in a hushed courtroom jammed with supporters from both sides.
Marx said sentencing defendants is the hardest part of his job, something he loses sleep over even when dealing with a hardened, career criminal. Raja is not that, he said. He could have given Raja a life term, a sentence prosecutors sought.
"This has been a heartbreaking case," Marx said. "I think it has had a profound effect on every single person who sat through this trial."
Jones' family exited the courthouse singing the gospel song "Victory is Mine." Jones came from a family of ministers and was to have performed at their church the morning he was killed in 2015. His father, Clinton Jones Sr., had told Marx earlier he hadn't deleted his son's number from his cellphone because that would be too hard emotionally.
"We knew what the truth was and we stood by that," Jones told reporters after the hearing. He said he never doubted Raja instigated the altercation. "Because of the son we had raised and the type of character he had, we knew ... it wasn't our Corey."
Raja's wife, Karine, asked Marx to show leniency so her husband could be a father to their two young children. She said the media and others had unfairly portrayed him as "a monster, the angel of death." Raja, dressed in a blue jail jumpsuit with his wrists and ankles shackled, often dropped his head as his wife spoke. He had grown a beard since his convictions last month for manslaughter and attempted murder and appeared to have lost weight.