Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Plea Deals Fall Apart in Teen's '14 Slaying

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Plea Deals Fall Apart in Teen's '14 Slaying

Article excerpt

Plea deals unraveled Tuesday in the killing of a teenage Paterson bystander when one of the eight defendants declined to accept the state's offer.

The case is now expected to go to trial May 22 -- with the defendants being tried in pairs for the death of Nazerah Bugg, a 14-year-old basketball prodigy who was caught in a spray of bullets that were exchanged between two rival gangs.

Nazerah, who was fatally shot in the chest, and a 15-year-old friend, who was wounded, were outside a chicken restaurant near Clinton and North Main streets in September 2014 when 15 shots were fired between residents of the city's 1st and 4th wards in retaliation for an earlier shooting.

Ten people were indicted in August 2015 on 25 counts including murder, attempted murder, gun possession, drug possession and distribution, and hindering apprehension.

Nyje Johnson told Superior Court Judge James Guida, who is overseeing the case, that "I do not want this plea."

Attorneys for each of the defendants and Passaic County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Paul DeGroot have been negotiating for months. However, Johnson's rejection of the deal voided the other agreements that had been negotiated. Johnson's attorney, Jose Torres, said that the first deal his client was offered was high. A later deal for 15 years called for him to serve 85 percent of the time behind bars and cooperate with prosecutors. The most recent deal was 25 years, of which he must serve 85 percent, and no cooperation in the prosecution.

"I don't blame him for vacillating with what amounts to half a lifetime," Torres said of his client, who just turned 22 years old last month.

Johnson will be tried first, along with Jeavonte Dennis, who had already accepted a 20-year deal with no cooperation with authorities.

They are both facing murder, attempted murder, conspiracy and weapons charges. …

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