SCHENECTADY -- A plot by three suspects to score easy cash and drugs led to a man's death last May inside a Paige Street apartment, a prosecutor said Thursday.
Prosecutor Peter Willis outlined the murder case against two of those suspects, Tyshawn Plowden and Arsheen Montgomery, in opening statements of their trial in Schenectady County Court. The men, who are being tried together, are accused in the May 6 shooting death of Taquan Foreman inside 410 Paige St. after their home invasion scheme devolved into a fistfight and, finally, shooting.
Defense attorneys for the men, however, seized on the expected testimony of the third suspect, 19-year-old Jahsiah Tucker. They argued the case will be based on his testimony and his testimony can't be trusted.
Plowden's attorney, Cheryl Coleman, argued that Tucker crafted his testimony to avoid a possible 25-years-to-life murder sentence and, instead, will receive as little as two years in jail.
Both Plowden, 28, formerly of Hulett Street, and Montgomery, 23, formerly of Delamont Avenue, are facing murder and other charges in the 29-year-old Foreman's death. Montgomery is accused of firing the two shots that ended Foreman's life and is facing a first-degree murder charge. Plowden, as an accused accomplice, is facing second-degree murder.
If convicted, Montgomery would face up to life without the possibility of parole; Plowden would face up to 25 years to life.
Visiting Judge James A. Murphy III is presiding.
In the prosecution's opening, Willis said Foreman dealt drugs out of 410 Paige St. with two friends, something known by others, including Tucker. Willis' account appeared to rely largely on Tucker's expected testimony.
Tucker, Montgomery and Plowden then hatched a plan to rob Foreman, Willis said. Tucker called Foreman to order drugs and then went into the apartment for the buy. Soon after, Plowden and Montgomery barged in. Tucker was unmasked and known to the residents, while the two who barged in concealed their identifies with facial coverings, the prosecution said.
But Foreman and the two other men inside didn't react the way the armed plotters expected, Willis said. Foreman took a swing at Plowden and began fighting with him on the couch. Foreman then went toward Montgomery and tried to push the gun away, Willis said. Montgomery responded by firing once, hitting Foreman in the midsection. Fighting stopped and Montgomery fired a second time, Willis said.
"They went in, guns drawn, looking to steal money, looking to steal drugs," Willis told the jury. "When it didn't happen the way they wanted it to, Arsheen Montgomery shot and killed Taquan Foreman."
The assailants fled as Foreman's associates drove the wounded man to Ellis Hospital, where he died.
Montgomery's attorney, Mark Juda, told the jury they will not be convinced of the identities of the masked men. A lot of people knew that house had drugs and money, Juda said.
Juda asked the jury to pay attention to the judge's instructions on testimony from accomplices. Juries generally can't convict based solely on the word of a co-conspirator.
"The bottom line is that Mr. Tucker is going to come in here and tell you a story," Juda said. "And, in exchange for that story, he received a benefit, a big benefit."
Coleman continued the criticism of Tucker in her own opening statement.
She argued that Tucker's story evolved as authorities promised him more and more. She argued that Tucker wasn't even satisfied with his potential two-year sentence and tried to get an even better deal.
Tucker, Coleman said, sold his story to the highest bidder.
She then pointed to what she said would be a lack of other concrete evidence against either her client or Montgomery -- from an apartment where a fight took place.
Investigators, she said, found fingerprints and DNA samples inside the apartment. None of the fingerprints linked the two men to the apartment.
"They know one thing for sure," Coleman said, focusing on her client, Plowden. "Guess what? It wasn't his. There is no evidence that isn't capable of being manipulated that ties him to this crime."
The trial is expected to continue for at least two weeks.