LOCKPORT – An 18-year-old Niagara Falls man was sentenced Thursday to 17 years in state prison for killing his uncle last fall.
Darius M. Belton, 18, of South Avenue, had agreed to the sentence as part of a plea bargain for the Sept. 25 shooting of Luis Ubiles, 37, outside Belton’s home.
Belton pleaded guilty April 16 to first-degree manslaughter; he was initially charged with second-degree murder.
“I don’t hate you, but I’ll never forgive you. Ask God for forgiveness,” Chemelia Williams, Ubiles’ fiancee, told Belton.
“I never intended for this to happen to my uncle,” Belton said. “My uncle was like a father figure to me.”
Belton said the shooting followed “a family dispute that spiraled out of control.”
He was also indicted on a charge of illegal weapon possession.
Belton was standing on his front porch when he shot Ubiles with a handgun. Under New York law, it is not illegal to have gun in one’s home or place of business if it is registered and the owner has a permit.
But in a pretrial ruling, Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas said she intended to tell the jury that a porch is not part of a home. Her ruling deprived Belton of a key defense strategy for the gun charge, which alone carries a 15-year maximum prison sentence.
The ruling set up the plea deal.
Prosecutors had planned to ask for consecutive sentences, meaning that if Belton were convicted of the weapon charge and the murder charge, he risked a potential prison sentence of 40 years to life.
Defense attorney Angelo Musitano had planned to argue at trial that Belton killed Ubiles in self-defense.
“To suggest that this man for no particular reason did what he did is wrong,” Musitano said. “He regrets every minute of what happened that day, and if he could take it back, he would.”
“I never left my home,” Belton said, adding that he thought he needed to protect his mother and sisters.
“I fired a shot to scare my uncle away,” Belton said.
Williams, the victim’s fiancee, did not buy it.
“Just like you show no remorse, I’m going to show no remorse for you,” she told Belton. “I hope you enjoy your time in prison.”