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What you need to know for 11/18/2017

8 years for man who drove at murder victim's brother

8 years for man who drove at murder victim's brother

Prosecutors call it 'cruel,' 'serious'
8 years for man who drove at murder victim's brother
Wayne Best.
Photographer: Provided

SCHENECTADY — A man who tried to run down the brother of murder victim Wayne Best last year was sentenced Monday to eight years in state prison.

Devin Conway_0.jpg

A Schenectady County jury in March convicted Devin Conway of first-degree attempted assault in the March 29, 2016, State Street incident involving Johnathan Best, Wayne Best's brother.

Prosecutors called the incident a "cruel and serious" attempt to injure a man who had lost a brother to murder and asked for 10 years in prison. 

Conway's defense called Conway's actions a "jerk move," but argued he did not intend to harm the victim. The defense asked for the minimum, five years.

Judge Mark Blanchfield ultimately sentenced Conway to eight years, saying video entered at trial captured by a nearby surveillance camera spelled out clearly Conway's intent to run over Johnathan Best.

The jury found Conway intentionally aimed his SUV at Johnathan Best in a parking lot off State Street behind the Bingo Palace.

The video shows Johnathan Best jumping out of the way with a second to spare, according to prosecutor Christina Tremante-Pelham.

Conway's motive stemmed from an earlier dispute he had with Wayne Best, Tremante-Pelham argued. 

Conway transferred his animosity toward Best's family after Best's December 2014 shooting death, partly due to Conway's name emerging in the Best murder investigation as someone upset with Best, Tremante-Pelham argued. Three men unconnected to Conway were later charged and convicted in the murder, with the convicted shooter receiving a life sentence last month.

Conway's defense stressed that Conway had nothing to do with Wayne Best's death.

Tremante-Pelham indicated she offered the information as background to the near-crash case.

Conway found Johnathan Best behind the Bingo Palace shortly after 1 p.m. March 29, 2016.

"If not for the quick and lucky actions of Johnathan, he would have struck him," Tremante-Pelham said. "He pointed [the SUV] at Johnathan Best and came one second from hitting him."

A surveillance video played at trial showed a blue SUV prosecutors said Conway drove circling in the parking lot near a man identified as Johnathan Best. The SUV then drives off camera and Best himself nearly walks completely out of frame himself. Best can then barely be seen running to his right as the SUV re-enters the frame speeding through where Best once stood.

Tremante-Pelham also argued that Conway's actions only escalated. He'd been convicted of a misdemeanor earlier for using pepper spray against someone he had a dispute with in a restaurant, she said.

Conway's defense attorney, Kurt Haas, indicated in court that his client is remorseful for his actions. Conway echoed those remarks in his own brief statement.

Haas argued that Conway's intent is shown by the outcome. Conway did not intend to hit Best, Haas argued. Haas is filing a notice of appeal.

"He acted like a jerk. He did something that a jerk would do. But it was more to be a jerk and not to intentionally hit or hurt Johnathan Best," Haas said.

Conway himself said he has "a lot of remorse." He spoke in a quiet voice, with portions of his statement inaudible to onlookers.

"I'm sorry for what I did," Conway said. "It was a jerk move."

The judge, however, said there is "no better indication" of what happened than what came out in court, the surveillance video and recordings of jailhouse calls. In the calls, Conway is caught trying to get others to lie for him.

Blanchfield said it was clear that Conway intended to "run over another person with an automobile. That's horrifying enough, frankly."

The jail calls, the judge said, showed a willingness to "ensnare others to cover up his own activity."

"There needs to be a deterrent to that sort of activity," Blanchfield said before imposing the eight-year sentence.

Conway was sentenced as a second-felony offender after his 2012 sentence in a marijuana-growing case. Conway achieved some notoriety in that case when he appeared on an episode of the MTV series "True Life" titled "I'm Addicted to Marijuana." The show featured a friend of Conway's, but included Conway and video of Conway's March 2012 sentencing.

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