Murder case shows why SAFE Act will not work
In 2011, Dontre Jones shot a gun from 45 feet away into a crowd of 150 people in a Cheektowaga park. An innocent bystander, 19-year-old Ira Watkins Jr., was struck and killed. He was an ECC college student and Taco Bell manager with a bright future.
The killer opted for a trial by judge. Jones was convicted by Erie County Judge Michael Pietruszka of first-degree manslaughter, rather than murder, as the prosecution wanted. Jones now faces a maximum prison sentence of 25 years. This means the defense successfully argued that he shot his weapon with only the intent to cause serious injury, not death.
I fail to see how anybody can fire a gun into a crowd of 150 people without thinking somebody was going to be wounded or die. A sharpshooter with laser sighting would be hard pressed to accomplish such a feat. Jones could have shot into the air or ground, but he chose to fire directly at human beings.
The point of this letter is: Can anyone tell me how the NY SAFE Act could have prevented this? Can anyone tell me truthfully that the government actually wants to get tough on criminals, when Jones will be a free man in his 40s, maybe even his 30s?
The SAFE Act targets law-abiding, non-violent, gun-owning citizens, yet here is substantial proof that the ill-conceived, rushed-through law cannot work. Criminals do not obey laws, and people like Jones have no regard whatsoever for human life.
I do question the judgment of Pietruszka. He had a perfect chance to send a message about gun crime, and he failed. Even the maximum sentence he can impose is not enough. Watkins will still be dead, and his murderer will be free to resume his life at some point. Jones deserves life without any chance of parole. This is a true miscarriage of justice if I ever saw one.