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N.Y. Drug Suspect Leaps to Death

October 29, 1998

NEW YORK (AP) _ A 19-year-old man apparently distraught over a prison sentence offered in exchange for his guilty plea in a drug case jumped through a courthouse window Thursday and fell 16 stories to his death.

``I’m 19 years old, your honor. That is terrible. That’s terrible,″ Derrick Smith told State Supreme Court Justice Budd Goodman, according to a court transcript.

Smith was charged with possession of marijuana and had been offered three to six years in prison in exchange for a guilty plea. He had a history of drug convictions.

After Smith rejected the offer at the Criminal Courts Building, Goodman set his trial for Nov. 25. As Smith was led from the courtroom into a secure area, he ran, jumped on a bench in front of the window and leaped to his death, falling on a Department of Correction bus before tumbling to the ground.

He wasn’t handcuffed at the time, said David Bookstaver, a spokesman for the Office of Court Administration. If a defendant is in a secured area and is not deemed a violent offender, he is not necessarily handcuffed, Bookstaver said.

Only the court officers leading Smith back to the ground floor to board a Correction bus witnessed him jump through the window just minutes after noon, but spectators in the courtroom, including Smith’s mother, heard the ruckus.

Several people on grand jury duty on the ninth floor saw Smith falling through the air.

``You heard a loud booming sound,″ said Kay Skinner, who was in the grand jury room listening to testimony when she saw Smith fall.

Smith had been convicted three times over the last three years of selling marijuana.

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