Long Branch man admits shooting teenager for bogus cash payment

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FREEHOLD – A Long Branch man charged with attempted murder has pleaded guilty to a demoted charge in a drug-related shootout that left a young man paralyzed from chest to toe.

Marc Zayas, 21, pleaded guilty on Thursday before Superior Court Judge Ellen Torregrossa-O’Connor to aggravated assault on a victim identified only by the initials “JJ”, in a plea bargain in which he incurred a maximum of five years in prison.

Zayas admitted to pulling out a gun and once shooting four people walking away from him after a transaction that Zayas said involved forgery. The bullet hit JJ in the back causing serious injuries, Zayas admitted.

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Not mentioned during the plea hearing, but revealed during a detention hearing for Zayas in 2018, the four men traveled to Long Branch on November 15, 2018 to purchase marijuana from Zayas. Michael Luciano, deputy district attorney for Monmouth County, said during the 2018 detention hearing that the four men intended to pay for the drugs with $ 1,000 in counterfeit bills, and that the victim, then aged 19 years old, had been hit in the back by the bullet fired by Zayas. they were moving away. Luciano said during the 2018 hearing that the victim remained paralyzed from the chest down.

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When questioned during his plea hearing by defense lawyer Carlos Diaz-Cobo, Zayas admitted that a dispute arose when he realized he was being paid with counterfeit money. He admitted he was angry and pulled out a gun and shot the men as they walked away, hitting the victim in the back.

“You shot them with complete indifference as to whether or not you could kill one of them?” Terragrossa-O’Connor asked Zayas. He replied in the affirmative.

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Zayas’ case was supposed to be the first to go to trial in Monmouth County since the COVID-19 lockdown interrupted new trials in March, Torregrossa-O’Connor said. Jury selection for the trial was scheduled to begin on Monday.

However, issues in the case arose earlier this week, prompting a request for an adjournment and subsequent negotiations that led to a plea deal, the judge said.

As a result, the first post-containment trial in the county will be that of Bernard Hughie, 54, of Asbury Park, accused of robbing a disabled resident of a healthcare facility where he worked. Jury selection for his trial is scheduled to begin Monday before Superior Court judge Marc C. LeMieux.

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Hughie has been free to await trial, while Zayas has been held without bail in Monmouth County Jail since his arrest in 2018.

Terragrossa-O’Connor said during Zayas’ plea hearing that despite his trial being preempted by his guilty plea, adjudicating incarcerated inmate cases remains the priority of the county duty judge, Superior Court Judge Lisa P. Thornton.

“Our eyes are on these cases first,” Terragrossa-O’Connor said. “Our goal is unwavering to move these cases forward.”

Diaz-Cobo said Zayas, who had been charged with attempted murder as well as various drug and weapons related offenses, could have faced 40 years in prison if he had been convicted of all the offenses at trial. As a result of plea negotiations, he now faces three to five years in prison, the defense lawyer said.

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Luciano told the judge he would seek a five-year prison sentence for Zayas upon conviction, while Diaz-Cobo retains the right to plead for a maximum sentence of three years.

Zayas will have to serve 85% of the prison sentence he receives before he can be considered for parole, under the state’s early release law.

Terragrossa-O’Connor has scheduled Zayas’ sentencing for February 5.

Kathleen Hopkins, a New Jersey reporter since 1985, covers crime, court cases, legal issues, unsolved mysteries and just about every major murder trial in Monmouth and Ocean counties. Contact her at [email protected]


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