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Four Get Life in Chapman Murder

June 11, 2007 — The District Court chamber was subdued Monday as Chief District Judge Raymond Finch pronounced life sentences without parole to the four men convicted in February of the 2004 slaying of Police Officer Cuthbert Chapman at a Wendy's restaurant in Sunny Isles Shopping Center. "Defendants Found Guilty in 2004 Slaying of VIPD Officer")
The defendants, Reinaldo "Rey" Berrios Jr., 21, Angel "Malungo" Rodriguez, 22, Troy "C Murder" Moore, 25 and Felix "Bugsy" Cruz, 26 were all convicted of an array of crimes in addition to murder. These included carjacking, armed robbery and use of a gun in the course of a violent crime.
All four received the same sentence: life in prison on federal murder charges and life on territorial murder charges. Finch assigned these to run consecutively, serving life in federal prison, then life in the Virgin Islands. Each also received a total of 157 years, some of which will run concurrently with the life sentences and some consecutively.
A federal life sentence is for the term of one’s natural life with no early release, no parole and no time off. Unless conviction is overtuned on appeal, the only avenue to release before one’s death is by presidential clemency. So the rest of the sentence has no practical effect.
Finch also ordered the defendants to pay fines totaling $50,900 restitution to the Chapman family for burial expenses and to submit to DNA testing and regular drug testing.
In turn, each defense attorney pleaded for the judge to impose only the Virgin Islands life sentence, arguing that the judge had the discretion to do so. A Virgin Islands life sentence would provide the possibility, years hence, for clemency from the territorial governor, while a presidential pardon would be more unlikely. Finch was unmoved.
“I think the sentence I will impose upon you must be one that will send a message to the community and to others inclined to commit such acts that this type of behavior will not be tolerated, at least in this courtroom,” Finch said to Berrios.
According to the prosecution’s account of what happened that fatal night in 2004, Berrios, Moore and Cruz all shot at Chapman after Chapman confronted Berrios with his service revolver during the robbery. Rodriguez was allegedly waiting in the car as the getaway driver.
In contrast to the trial phase of the proceedings, there were few in the audience for the sentencing. Violet Chapman, mother of the slain officer, was allowed to speak before the sentences were read.
“You have robbed me of my son, his sister of her brother, and his children in particular of their father,” Violet Chapman said to the four defendants. “I forgive you all. And you have an opportunity when you go to prison to have a change of heart. You have children and you can still become a role model for your children from prison. This is the bottom for you all. But still, you are all alive while my son is dead.”
Mrs. Chapman urged a religious awakening upon the defendants. “I hope and pray that you take this time to turn your life to God,” she said. “Because in the end, you, me, Judge Finch, your attorneys and everyone will go to a higher judgment. And when that day comes, there won’t be any appeal.”
All four are appealing the convictions. All four defense attorneys are court appointed and all have asked to be replaced.
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