Hours before a planned rally and march to protest the reported 15-year plea deal in the murder of Maplewood teenager Moussa Fofana, advocates and friends of the family are criticizing the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office for its handling of the case.
Moussa’s mother Hawa Fofana said was called into the prosecutor’s office on August 23 (without her attorney) and told that a plea deal has been struck with Yohan Hernandez, the Newark man arrested and charged in the murder her son.
Fofana said she was disappointed, sad, and “taken by surprise.”
Acting Essex County Prosecutor Theodore N. Stephens II said in a statement released Thursday afternoon that his office has kept Fofana informed of important developments in the case and allowed her a chance to have “meaningful input” regarding a plea:
The Essex County Prosecutor’s Office has consistently approached the cases presented to us by following the law and the facts. The tragic homicide of young Moussa Fofana was handled in the same way. Consistent with that approach, we have been mindful of the importance of keeping the family, through their counsel, informed of all important aspects of this case and have afforded them their right to offer meaningful input that we have considered in formulating the proposed plea. Based on the experience and expertise this office possesses, it is our considered opinion that all efforts to resolve this matter have been undertaken keeping all the above in mind.
Rich Pompelio, the family’s attorney, called parts of the statement “self-serving” and said the prosecutor’s contention that his office had provided the family with information and the opportunity for input was “not a true statement.”
Fred Profeta, former Maplewood Mayor who has advocated for justice in the case, said the 15 year plea deal was “an insult” and does not align with the facts of the case, or the law.
He also alleged the prosecutor’s statement was incorrect in several ways:
1) Hawa was not kept informed. Nor was her attorney. Hawa was called to the prosecutor’s office for an “update”, and not told to bring her attorney. That’s when she was informed that the deal had already been made. She never had an opportunity to provide input, contrary to the NJ Constitution and NJ law.
2) The recommended sentence does not comport with the facts and the law. Hernandez has confessed to intentional murder. The penalty for that is 30 years to life. 15 years for taking the entire life of Moussa Fofana is an insult.
3) The prosecutor had defended his position by claiming that the claim of self-defense is viable. It is not, either legally or factually. Hernandez stated that he shot Moussa because he “took a swing” at him. Even if that were true, answering a fist with a lethal bullet is totally disproportionate and the defense is flawed, as a matter of law.
Village Green will be covering today’s protest and will follow up on this story.