Stamford judge sentences Bridgeport man to 35 years in prison
STAMFORD — After deeming a Bridgeport man convicted of armed robberies, attempted murder and arson unable to be rehabilitated, a Stamford judge on Thursday sentenced Onaje Smith to 35 years in prison.
In a fourth-floor courtroom 10 weeks after he was convicted by a jury of an extended crime spree in Stamford and Norwalk punishable by up to 206 combined years in prison, Judge John Blawie, who presided over his January jury trial, did not mince words.
Blawie said Smith, who is facing a separate murder charge in Bridgeport for the 2016 killing of Stamford resident Shane Slinsky, was “likely” to commit serious crimes again, was “beyond control” and could not be expected to hew to the norms of society, ever.
Blawie said he searched in vain for any factors that would mitigate Smith’s sentence, but was unable to find any.
Blawie said Smith’s life had been “lived in a state of perpetual corruption,” and with his “thug life” the rest of society cannot be made to live with him.
When asked if he had anything to say, Smith, 20, declined and sat down.
Assistant State’s Attorney Michelle Manning asked for a 35- to 40-year sentence, saying that with all the damage he did while shooting two people and nearly killing one of them he deserved the entire 40.
Manning said the sentence was an appropriate one and it was clear to her that Blawie put a lot of thought into it.
She also thanked all the officers who worked on the case.
“There were so many police departments and agencies that worked on this case like state police, Norwalk, Stamford, Bridgeport and state fire marshals,” Manning said. “Everybody worked together during this crime spree trying to protect the community and get these guys off the street. And they did a phenomenal job and it is because of their hard work that we were were able to get him off the streets.”
John Thygerson, the attorney for Smith’s co-defendant Tyreik Gantt, 21, of Stamford, who was supposed to go to trial with Smith before he folded and pleaded guilty to the same dozen felonies Smith was found guilty of, questioned Smith’s determination to take his case to trial.
Gantt was sentenced earlier this year to 20 years in prison.
“Today’s sentencing further underscores my client’s prudence in evaluating the evidence and electing to take a plea and not test the strength of the state’s case at trial,” Thygerson said.
Smith’s attorney Miles Gerety said he and his client did not agree with the jury’s verdict in the case. He said that while it can be tempting to throw away the key, Gerety said studies show that in 17 years Smith will be as likely to commit a serious felony as a 13-year-old.
He said young men in their late teens and early 20s were more likely than at any other time in their lives to commit violent crimes and by letting the years roll by they will change.
Considering the circumstances Gerety said he agreed that Smith deserved a “substantial” sentence. But he still held out hope for Smith in the future.
At the time Smith and Gantt were involved in their crime spree in 2017, Stamford police said the two had been “wreaking holy hell” on lower Fairfield County.
The duo robbed two Chinese food delivery drivers in Norwalk in January 2017, shooting one in the leg and arm and stealing his car. Minutes after one of those robberies, Gantt was seen on a surveillance camera at a Stamford gas station pumping gasoline into the back seat of the car, which moments later was found engulfed in flames on Oakwood Place in Stamford.
The two also shot at a rival gang member during a drive-by that same month, Manning said, and both were involved in following that same 19-year-old man into a West Main Street convenience store in Stamford and shooting him in the left temple and abdomen. The man survived.