Sylvester Young was arraigned Tuesday on a new indictment charging him with second-degree murder and other counts in the killing of a man and wounding of a woman at a party five years ago.
Young, 36, who was formally charged in January, just before the five-year anniversary of the killing, pleaded not guilty to the charges. His attorney, Adam Parisi, declined to comment afterward.
Young emerged as a person of interest soon after the killing of Jumez Lee, prosecutor Philip Mueller has said, but investigators had time to build their case. Young was arrested and jailed on unrelated drug charges days after the killing and has remained incarcerated since.
The shooting happened at an unauthorized after-hours party the morning of Jan. 25, 2009, at the former Tip Toe Inn at Altamont Avenue and Hamburg Street. Some of the attendees were there for a birthday party. Others arrived later, after local bars closed.
Mueller said Tuesday there was no evidence of a confrontation at the scene between Young and Lee or even an argument. It’s also unclear whether Lee even knew Young was present before he was shot in the back of the head.
Young was thought to have been a member of the Crips street gang and Lee a member of the Bloods, Mueller said. Prosecutors believe Young targeted Lee in retaliation for acts or crimes that he suspected Lee of having done to others, but they think Young may have had the wrong person.
“He may have been killed for something he didn’t do,” Mueller said. “He certainly was killed for something that wasn’t proved.”
“That’s the nature of street justice,” he added.
He noted that investigators took five years to charge Young and the case is still far from over. Prosecutors will have to prove the matter to a jury, and Young will have all the protections under the law.
“Mr. Lee had none of those,” Mueller said. “It was decided in a moment, the sentence was carried out and there was no appeal.”
Mueller also noted there was a second victim, a woman who was an innocent bystander and was shot in the back. She has since made a complete recovery.
Young faces one count each of second-degree murder and first-degree assault, four counts of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, two counts of third-degree criminal possession of a weapon and two counts of tampering with physical evidence. The evidence-tampering counts relate to accusations Young removed the murder weapon from the scene before police arrived.
Young remains in custody, serving a sentence to 2015 in an unrelated drug case and also being held without bail in the murder case.