Schenectady County

Retrial begins for accused Schenectady killer

Jason Battaglia was killed six years ago to settle a drug debt of $50, a prosecutor argued this morn

Jason Battaglia was killed six years ago to settle a drug debt of $50, a prosecutor argued this morning in the retrial of a man charged with Battaglia’s murder.

Shakeem Knowles and an accomplice had just sold Battaglia crack cocaine, but Battaglia didn’t pay, prosecutor Philip Mueller said. Knowles chased Battaglia down and made him pay with his life, Mueller said.

“You may think $50 is not a motive for murder,” Mueller told the jury in his opening statements of Knowles’ murder trial. “But we all know, people are killed for far less.”

Knowles, now 23, is standing trial on multiple counts, including robbery and murder, related to the March 2002 killing of Jason Battaglia. Knowles was convicted in 2005, but that conviction was overturned on appeal.

Knowles, along with co-defendant Cecilia “Tank” Simmons, now 27, were accused of stabbing the 26-year-old Battaglia to death on Crane Street after accusing Battaglia of not paying for drugs. They flushed him out of a Crane Street apartment and chased him to a nearby parking lot. When Simmons couldn’t jump a fence, Knowles did, catching Battaglia and stabbing him in the heart, Mueller argued.

Simmons has already pleaded guilty and is serving 15 years to life in prison. She is expected to testify against Knowles.

Knowles, who has maintained his innocence, is being represented by Michael Horan.

Horan appeared not to dispute that Knowles was there, but he argued the alleged robbery — taking the drugs back from Battaglia — wasn’t a robbery, a foundation for the particular murder charge with which Knowles is charged.

Horan also argued that there was no video, no DNA and not even a knife, leaving the prosecution to rely largely on witnesses remembering events from six years earlier – events he claimed happened while several of the witnesses were using drugs.

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