A Town of Tonawanda man was convicted Friday of wounding an innocent female bystander when he was trying to shoot a witness in a murder case just after midnight last Aug. 5.
Eric Smith, 23, a member of the Buffalo chapter of the Rollin’ 60s Crips street gang, was convicted of first-degree assault and criminal possession of a weapon.
Following a week-long trial before State Supreme Court Justice Russell P. Buscaglia, the Buffalo jury of six women and six men deliberated for just over three hours before finding Smith, of Colvin Avenue, guilty as charged in the shooting at Colvin and St. Lawrence Avenues in Buffalo.
After the judge remanded Smith pending his July 2 sentencing, trial prosecutors Michael P. Felicetta and James R. Gardner said they will urge Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III to recommend the judge impose the maximum-allowable 25-year prison term on Smith.
Daniel J. Dubois, attorney for Smith, who has been jailed since his arrest last September, said the conviction will be appealed.
Monday and Tuesday the woman who Smith shot and the male prosecution witness who was the intended target identified Smith as the shooter. The prosecutors and court officials asked the news media not to identify the two witnesses.
The prosecutors said Smith was attempting to silence a witness against fellows Crips members in the grisly stabbing of 16-year-old Darren Brown during a Crips inauguration ceremony last July 5. The prosecutors said Brown was killed because men wanting to get admitted to the Crips had to first carry out a killing.
Kentie Crumps, 17, of Young Street, another Crips gang member, faces a still-unscheduled assault trial for his alleged role in the attempted shooting of the prosecution witness, Felicetta and Gardner said.
On March 18, a jury found Ezeiekile Nafti, 17, guilty of first-degree murder for taking part in the killing of Brown, who was stabbed 54 times before his body was set on fire on an old railroad right-of-way near Colvin Avenue late on July 5, 2012.
Nafti faces sentencing May 29 before Buscaglia. Felicetta and Colleen Curtin Gable, the prosecutors in the murder case, said Crips gang member Demetrius Huff, 18, who had pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter and then withdrew his plea, faces a murder trial before Buscaglia on Sept. 30.
After the verdict was announced, Sedita said he considered Smith’s “violent conduct linked to witness intimidation efforts to be an affront to the very integrity of the criminal justice system and must be dealt with accordingly.”