Schenectady County

Judge shows killer no leniency

Omari Lee took many things when he killed former Schenectady High basketball player Xavier McDaniel
PHOTOGRAPHER:

Omari Lee took many things when he killed former Schenectady High basketball player Xavier McDaniel Jr. at Jerry Burrell Park, prosecutor Philip Mueller said Wednesday.

He took the 21-year-old McDaniel away from his family and friends — including his young son.

He also further chipped away at the community’s sense of security and its expectation that children could play in a park without encountering an execution.

“Nothing the court can do to him today will match the damage that he has done to Xavier’s family and to Xavier himself,” Mueller said at Lee’s sentencing in Schenectady County Court.

The prosecutor prefaced his remarks by taking away any suspense: He would be asking for the maximum possible sentence for a man he said has shown no willingness for rehabilitation.

Acting Schenectady County Court Judge Polly Hoye agreed, sentencing the 27-year-old Lee to consecutive maximums on the murder and other weapons convictions. He received a sentence of 70 years to life in state prison to be served following the seven years he is already serving on a prior drug conviction.

Lee was out on bail on the drug case when he killed McDaniel on April 3, 2007.

A Schenectady County jury found that Lee killed McDaniel on the mistaken belief that McDaniel had stolen crack cocaine, cash and a gun from him.

A TRUE MENACE

In handing down the sentence, Hoye said Lee conducted a reign of terror in Schenectady and said he was truly a menace to society.

She echoed Mueller’s arguments that Lee had repeatedly returned to crime and the drug trade as soon as he got clear of law enforcement.

“You have not shown any indication to me that you are capable of rehabilitation,” Hoye said, “or that any sentence would make a difference to you.”

Lee sat quietly in the courtroom next to his attorney, Mark Sacco. He declined to make a statement.

Sacco attempted to argue for the lowest possible sentence, 15 years to life. He argued that Lee was capable of turning his life around. He noted Lee is still a young man, one who has made errors in judgment.

“Should the court impose the maximum, it would shut that door,” Sacco said.

Mueller had already emphasized the brutality of the crime.

After learning his drug proceeds had been stolen that morning, Lee was told it might have been McDaniel. He went hunting for McDaniel, finding him that afternoon. He then handed out his brand of summary justice.

McDaniel pleaded with his killer not to shoot. He was a father, he told Lee. His children needed him.

“Even that appeal to human decency had no effect on Omari Lee,” Mueller said. “He shot him in cold blood, at close range, in broad daylight, while he was trapped in his own vehicle.”

Among the many family members in court was Keanna Womack, mother of McDaniel’s almost 3-year-old son and namesake, “Little X.”

She and other relatives were not permitted to make a statement, after seeking that from the district attorney’s office too late. Lee refused to waive the notification requirements and allow them to speak.

Instead, Mueller included their comments in his own address to the court.

The seasoned prosecutor and veteran of dozens of murder cases wavered as he read some of the comments.

They told of a young man who was so happy to be a father that he ran home and told everyone when he found out.

They also told of his son and other young relatives coming to terms with McDaniel’s death. When they pass the cemetery, Womack wrote, little Xavier says his daddy’s in there.

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