Modified: March 24, 2015 1:04pm
Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III announces that 19 year-old Damone Lewis pleaded guilty as charged to Attempted Murder in the Second Degree, Assault in the First Degree and Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree before Erie County Court Judge Sheila A. DiTullio. These are the highest charges for which the defendant could have been convicted had he gone to trial. In other words, Lewis did not receive a so-called “plea bargain” and was instead prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
On August 30, 2012, while in the vicinity of Walden Avenue and Wood Street in the City of Buffalo, Lewis shot 15 year-old Angelica Soto with an illegal handgun, paralyzing her and thus confining her to a wheelchair for the rest of her life.
On September 5, 2013, Lewis pleaded guilty to Attempted Murder in the Second Degree, Assault in the First Degree and Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree for the shooting of Ms. Soto. At the defendant’s January 16, 2014 sentencing, however, the victim came to court and claimed that Lewis was not the person who shot her. After reassurances were made concerning her safety, Ms. Soto re-affirmed her identification of the defendant. Despite this, as well as the defendant’s repeated efforts at witness intimidation throughout the case -- cooperating witnesses received death threats during the investigation and drawings depicting “snitches” being assassinated were seized from the defendant’s jail cell -- Lewis was permitted to withdraw his guilty plea and proceed to trial on this case (the attempted murder of Ms. Soto) and another (the murder of Jeremy Thomas).
The trial on Lewis’ pending murder indictment was tried first before State Supreme Court before the Hon. Penny Wolfgang. On July14, 2014, the jury convicted Lewis of Murder in the Second Degree and Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree in connection with the fatal shooting of Jeremy Thomas. On September 3, 2014, Justice Wolfgang sentenced Lewis to a term of imprisonment having a minimum of twenty years and a maximum of life.
Lewis now faces up to twenty-five additional years in state prison when he is sentenced on February 9, 2015 at 9:30 a.m. by Judge DiTullio.
The case was successfully prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Gary W. Hackbush, who is assigned to DA Sedita’s Homicide Bureau, and Assistant District Attorney Jeremy V. Murray, who is assigned to DA Sedita’s Felony Trial Bureau. DA Sedita stated: “After more than two years of legal maneuvering and despite his despicable efforts at witness intimidation, a vicious and incredibly dangerous criminal has been successfully prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”