Trial of NYC man in Harvard shooting begins

AP News
Posted: Apr 06, 2011 5:06 PM
Trial of NYC man in Harvard shooting begins

A New York City man masqueraded as a student to make a local drug dealer feel comfortable, then shot the man in a Harvard dorm when he refused to hand over $5,000 worth of marijuana during a robbery, a Massachusetts prosecutor said Wednesday.

As the murder trial of Jabrai Jordan Copney began Wednesday, prosecutors and Copney's defense lawyer made it clear that the case hinges largely on stories told by Copney's co-defendants _ two men who allegedly participated in the robbery and Copney's ex-girlfriend, who was a Harvard student at the time of the shooting.

Prosecutors say Copney shot Justin Cosby, 21, of Cambridge, in May 2009, during an attempted robbery in the basement of Harvard's Kirkland House dorm. But Copney's lawyer, John Amabile, called the co-defendants "liars," and said they had made up "phony baloney" stories so they could cut deals with prosecutors and avoid long prison sentences.

Assistant District Attorney Daniel Bennett said Copney, a songwriter and musician, spent a lot of time at Harvard visiting his girlfriend, Brittany Smith. While there, he also smoked marijuana with another Harvard student, Smith's friend, Chanequa Campbell, Bennett said.

Bennett said Campbell also sold drugs. Through Campbell, Copney learned about Cosby, Bennett said. Cosby lived a few blocks from the Ivy League campus but was not a student there.

Bennett said Copney hatched a plan to rob Cosby and called Blayn Jiggetts, a friend from New York, and asked him to come to Cambridge and bring a gun.

"He made a decision ... that someone who sold drugs was a good target for robbery because they couldn't go to the police," Bennett said.

Bennett said Copney pretended to be a Harvard student to make Cosby feel comfortable and told him he wanted to buy $5,000 worth of marijuana. On the day of the robbery, Copney, Jiggetts and Jason Aquino, who supplied the gun, lured Cosby to the basement of the dorm.

Bennett said Jiggetts put the gun in Cosby's face and demanded the marijuana. When Cosby would not give it to them, Copney took the gun and Jiggetts tried to pull the marijuana away from Cosby. When Cosby tried to escape, Copney shot him in the stomach, Bennett said.

Cosby ran outside clutching his stomach, going past Harvard students and others, and collapsed. He died the following day.

Copney's lawyer said "incredible promises, inducements and rewards" were given to Jiggetts, Aquino and Campbell.

"These witnesses are liars," Amabile said. "This testimony from these people is a lot of baloney."

Amabile said Campbell "lied through her teeth" when she testified before a grand jury, but is not being charged with perjury. Campbell has denied any involvement in the shooting and has not been charged. Bennett said Campbell has a cooperation agreement with prosecutors and is expected to testify against Copney.

Amabile said it was Jiggetts who shot Cosby.

"Blayn Jiggetts loaded the gun ... Blayn Jiggetts brought it to the basement of Kirkland House. Blayn Jiggetts pulled it out when a dispute arose during this marijuana deal. Blayn Jiggetts shot and killed Mr. Cosby, not they _ him _ the guy that's getting the deal," he said.

Amabile said Jiggetts and Aquino both agreed to blame Copney.

"They conjure up this phony baloney story saying we don't care what happens to Jabrai Copney, we are going to save ourselves, and then they sold it to the willing prosecutors. That's what's going on here," he said.

Smith is accused of giving the men her Harvard electronic keycard to enter the building where the shooting occurred. She has pleaded not guilty to hiding the gun used in the shooting and to helping the three men elude authorities and escape to New York..